The project consisted of the refurbishment of the ”Palais des Gouverneurs” and the reconstruction of a part which was destroyed by bombardment in December 1943. The project included the restoration of the old building, its courtyard and the ramps that go to the top of the bastion as well as the creation of an original design for the furniture.
Although the building is recognized by France as a historical landmark, the architects designed a contemporary building to fill the space of the part which had been destroyed.
History of the Building
The origin of the construction of the Palace can be traced back to the XVth century when it was the residency of the Governor, who was the representative of the Republic of Genoa on the island of Corsica. During the Genovean period, the Palace has also been used as a court house, a prison and a fort. It was heavily fortified and suffered several attacks. It has been remodeled several times.
At the end of the XVIIIth century, when Corsica became French, the Palace was turned into a military barrack, at which time most of the interior decoration was removed. In December of 1943, the city of Bastia was bombed and the building was damaged. After World War II, and some light renovation, the structure then served as a museum for the history of the city. The part that had been destroyed by the bombardment was not reconstructed at that time.
The shape of the palace is related to its original purpose, the house of the Governor of Corsica when the island was under domination from Genoa Republic (currently part of Italy). Therefore, the architectural plan is a perfect square, a geometrical shape intended to symbolize order and power. The project was to establish the geometry of the original quadrilateral construction and to close the courtyard. The design of the modern part was based on an analysis of the design and proportions of the old building. It was discovered that the layout of facades and internal walls followed a grid pattern based on pure geometrical shapes of squares and golden rectangles. Also, by transferring all measures into the unit of measurement used at the time of the design of the building, the Genovese palm rather than the meter, it was found that the grid was based on an eleven palm module. With that observation having been made, the architects designed the new extension based on the same grid and proportions of the original design.
The oldest and finest part of the palace, with vaulted rooms and sculpted capitals, houses the permanent exhibition on the ground floor and the first floor, while the modern construction contains the lobby and the temporary exhibitions. The historical building was restored to emphasize the purity of the forms. However, because strict control of the air temperature and humidity was required to protect the paintings and pieces of wooden art, the technical equipment is centralized and hidden in a piece of furniture in each room. The piece was designated as “totem” by the architects.
The underground part of the building has also been renovated and can be visited. This area was used as a jail during the Genovese period. Under the pavement of the courtyard two huge water tanks were situated, which were designed to provide water in the event of a shortage during a siege. Openings have been located in the basement, which permit one to view both tanks from a cantilevered platform.
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