A new living space
A damaged natural space until year 2000
efore 2000, the site of Pont du Gard had no infrastructure to welcome visitors nor was able to offer basic services like providing information to tourists. The chaotic road signs surrounding the monument were of little help and visitors that walked the varied paths to reach the aqueduct bridge were unwittingly damaging the garrigue environment. Until 1996 cars, trucks and coaches could drive on the Pont du Gard and the heritage site suffered badly from its proximity to road infrastructure such as roundabouts and a parking area.
Four missions: protect, welcome, transmit and develop
Between 1996 and 2000 an extensive site management plan was developed within a 165-hectare perimeter around the monument by the département du Gard’s authorities with the support of the Regional administration (Conseil régional du Languedoc Roussillon), the French state and European Funds. The plan aimed at conserving the site and offering a quality environment and cultural content for visitors. The philosophy of the new site can be described in four major points: protecting the environment, offering a quality welcome to visitors, transmitting the knowledge of the Ancient city of Nîmes aqueduct and developing the local economy. A new life was restored to the natural space around the Pont du Gard. It was made a fully pedestrian area and all traces of the previous abuse restored.
An architectural project based on modernity
The Pont du Gard’s green surroundings (within a 500m perimeter around the protected monument) were restored to their original natural beauty. Driving has been forbidden and cars must now park in off site parking areas. On each bank of the Gardon River a welcoming and information centre has been built, placed 500m from the Pont du Gard in order to be out of sight when walking on the monument. Modernity and discretion were the mottos of the project’s designers who intended to showcase this feat of Roman architecture while respecting the landscape.
A silent architecture
The architectural project was carried out by the world famous architect Jean-Paul Viguier, acclaimed for his numerous works across France, United States, Spain, Nigeria (Parc André Citroën in Paris, Médiathèque Cathédrale of Reims, France Télévision head offices, MacMay Museum in San Antonio, Sofitel Hotel in Chicago, Cœur Défense tower in Paris). He believed that contemporary architecture was the best way to mark a difference between ancient and modern buildings and that the beauty of the natural site called for “silent” architecture. In these modern spaces located close to the Pont du Gard, volume, material and light are the only benchmarks for the two buildings.
The left-bank building
hides 2/3 under the ground and offers a 10000m² surface area, 4500m² of which are museum spaces. To the architect it imitates a stone being swallowed by the land.
« ... j’ai voulu poser là un volume assez simple, une sorte de pierre posée dans le paysage… »
The right-bank building
was built above a former quarry. Its shapes blend perfectly with the form of this spectacular landscape, giving the impression the quarry and building were formed together. From September to June it is dedicated to seminars and conferences.
Modern design around an ancient monument
The former road was reclassified as a pathway and became the backbone of the new site. It now connects the Pont du Gard with all the different spaces and has been tastefully furnished with outdoor furniture (benches, bins, water features), information signs and lighting. Great designers participated in rehabilitating this outstanding site. Together with the revitalization of the landscape these elements are the expression of a new living space around the Pont du Gard.
Architect and Road planner : Jean-Paul Viguier
Outdoor furniture designer : Maarten Van Severen
Landscape designer (surroundings) : Laure Quoniam
Landscape designer (Croisées) : Philippe Deliau
Signage designer : Evelyne Deltombe
Pont du Gard’s lighting designer : Claudette Viguier
Short-lived beach designer : Jean-Christophe Choblet et Sylvie Del Percio
Rehabilitation of « l'Hôtel du Pont du Gard », the hotel of the Pont du Gard
Located opposite the Pont du Gard, the hotel building built in 1865 has been renovated thanks to the Pont du Gard’s protection program launched in 2000. After extensive restoration work, this beautiful manor house has been returned to its original character, size and façade. In 2010 its interior was refurbished with a contemporary design. Today the building once again serves its original purpose: a gastronomic restaurant offering regional cuisine.