A lush garden for a Paris landmark
If you can forgive me trotting out this old warhorse, Paris really is a movable feast. Whether you love food, fashion, architecture, art, parks or gardens, you'll find plenty to whet the appetite.
If the city is a feast, then the Musee du Quai Branly is a mouth-watering smorgasbord.
Opened in 2006 the museum fronts the River Seine, and sits just round the corner from the Eiffel Tower. Not a bad start.
Its collection is dedicated to the world’s indigenous peoples, with cultures from Africa, the Americas, Asia and Oceania represented.
The Museum holds the largest collection of commissioned contemporary indigenous Australian art in the world, with eight renowned indigenous artists selected to contribute artworks to the new building.
All this would be enough for any aspiring institution, but the Musee du Quai Branly also commissioned two world class landscapes to complement the Jean Nouvel-designed building.
The first is a vertical garden by master botanist Patrick Blanc. It graces a three storey wall right on the Quai Branly, and was one of the first of Blanc’s walls to receive global attention.
From a distance the wall pulses with kryptonic energy – all that green!
It hurtles up the wall relentlessly: it appears probable that the occupants have to hack clear the openings for their windows each morning.
But what a thing to look out on.
At street level there are no screens or fences keeping you at a respectful distance. Intrigued visitors come eyeball-to-eyeball with the elaborate tapestry of species on display.
I really like that this wall doesn’t hide its secrets away. You can see through gaps in the planting to the felt backing cloth. You can see the grated drain at ground level where the irrigation water is collected.
The fire services are clearly on display, and you can see how cleverly the building steps back to create a little breathing space against its neighbour.
Tearing yourself away – and it’s no easy task – you enter the museum grounds proper.
Inside is another garden wonderland, this time of a more terrestrial nature.
Gilles Clement is responsible for this one, and it’s a joy to wander through his drifts of feathery grasses and lush foliage.
Take the path this way and the top of the Eiffel Tour peeps its head over the neighbouring buildings.
Take a turn this way and the glowing boxes of the museum shunt in to view.
In every direction this is a landscape to be explored.
At the centre of the site the building lifts itself up on columns, letting the garden, and visitors wander through to the other side.
Perhaps it was the time of day – late, golden afternoon; perhaps the time of year – late summer; or perhaps the occasion – my first day back in the city where I’d spent 9 happy months as a student; but everything conspired to make my visit to this garden one of complete and utter delight.
Extravagantly planted, with over 150 trees, the garden at Musee du Quai Branly changes with the seasons. Lush and green in spring, it wears different clothes in winter, when sculptural branches and pale textures are the stars.
Whatever time of year you’re lucky enough to visit, it’s impossible to be disappointed with the riches on offer at the Musee du Quai Branly.
Thanks for reading, and see you soon for more from the wonderful world of gardens, landscape and design.
Musee du Quai Branly can be found at 37 Quai Branly, 75007 Paris, France. Info on opening hours, directions, exhibitions and more on the website.