In the 18th century, the engineer Louis Régemortes built a new bridge over the Allier River which helped control flooding, thus permitting the development of the of the left bank area called "La Madeleine" as cavalry quarters, with the first barracks constructed during the reign of Louis XV.
The barracks were named Villars, in homage to the Maréchal de Villars who came from Moulins. Construction began in 1770 based on the plans of the architect Jacques-Denis Antoine in the classical aesthetics of the 18th century, with a central building flanked by two low wings, with three staircases leading from the stables on the ground f l oor to the soldiers' quarters. The buildings, made of sandstone from the nearby Coulandon quarry, display technical prowess in the masonry and stonework as well as in the flat "sarrazine" vaulting.
Over the years the Quartier Villars housed diverse army corps, leading to extensive architectural transformations. After the departure of gendarmes in the mid 20th century the barracks were programmed for destruction.
In 1984 the Minister of Culture classified the barracks as a Historical Monument thanks to the central staircase. The demolition was stopped and the site was saved! Ten years after, the French government decided to create the Centre national du costume de scène et de la scénographie.
The place of arms, refashioned by the Moulins Town Council, perfectly accentuates the building. A pathway of old paving stones leads the way from the entrance gate to the facade, highlighting the Quartier Villars’ significance in the town’s history.
Across 1,730m2, the reserves include, on the ground floor, work areas (costume reception and departure zones, transport lock, packaging and sorting rooms, isolation room, mannequining workshop…).
Then, on the following three floors, reserves equipped with compactus shelving systems, vast sliding wardrobes including both hanging space and drawers, hence enabling the storage of some ten thousand costumes. These reserves are in compliance with the most stringent recommendations for the sanitary and physical security of works of art and benefit from totally independent air-conditioning.
Originally, the vaulted ground floor housed the stables; today it is the reception hall. Ticket sales are followed by boutiques, then cloakrooms, a restaurant and a 100-seat audi- torium.
The entire first floor, which formerly provided accommodation for soldiers and officers, is now devoted to exhibitions. Eight showcase exhibition rooms act as miniature stages displaying costumes within a scenographic context. Two further rooms can be used for a great variety of purposes.
Finally, the great split-level hall, equipped with a theatrical grid, hence referred to as the “salle du gril”, or grid room, allows painted decor and props to be displayed, together with all sorts of other whimsical features or examples of theatrical immoderation.
The second floor, over and above office space, comprises a documentation centre and an educational centre. The documentation centre is dedicated to the general history of the performing arts and theatrical professions.
The four teaching rooms have been highly active since the Centre opened, successively welcoming the young and old, from nursery classes to students from the Ecole du Louvre, from little dancers to skilled embroiderers… All levels of the French national education system are represented and workshops are organised during school holidays.
The fashion designer, Christian Lacroix, honorary president of the CNCS, completely remodeled the museum’s café-restaurant in 2011. In Baroque-style with sparkling colors, we can find a mixture of old prints, sparkling and arabesque colors combined on a carpet created by the designer exclusively for the museum.
Located on the ground floor of the building, the CNCS auditorium, with a surface area of around 140m², may welcome up to 90 people. Situated at the end of the exhibition circuit, this room enables visitors to continue their visit with a projection of films presenting the design of the costumes displayed. Programming is adapted to each exhibition in partnership with the National Audiovisual Institute.
In the Auvergne region, located in the centre of France, in the very heart of the Bourbonnais within the Allier department, nestles the charming town of Moulins, with its typical pink and black brickwork, appreciated by many a celebrity. Moulins boasts a wealth of beautiful churches, noble town houses, and a cathedral which is home to one of France’s greatest late 15th Century masterpieces, the Maître de Moulins triptych, together with the Duke of Montmorency’s sumptuous mausoleum, one of the
17th Century’s finest funerary monuments, portraying the great warrior swooning on his weeping widows knees.