The Centre national de costume de scène et de la scénographie (CNCS) is situated in Moulins in the Allier department on a 4-acre site, and occupies a part of the Quartier Villars, a cavalry barracks dating from the end of the 18th century which has been classified as a Historic Monument. The restoration of the barracks building was accompanied by the construction of a new building for the reserves of the collection, designed by the architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte.
The construction of the Quartier Villars began in 1770 and continued over the course of a century. It was part of the reform program of military life initiated by the Duc of Choiseuil, War Minister under Louis XV. The site bears the name of Marshal Claude Louis Hector de Villars (1653-1734), a native of Moulins who was one of the great men of war under the reign of Louis XIV. The main building was designed by the architect Jacques Denis Antoine (Paris 1733-Paris 1801) who also designed the Hôtel des Monnaies in Paris.
The Quartier Villars flourished during the 19th century and up through the 1930s. It was damaged during World War II and the main building underwent modifications to become a barracks for the gendarmerie. It was scheduled to be destroyed after it closed down in 1980.
The site was saved in 1984 thanks to its designation as a Historic Monument.
After several studies, the French government proposed a project to the city of Moulins for the establishment of a national theatrical costume centre in the Quartier Villars. It was designated as a Grand Regional Project by a decision of the Inter-ministerial Committee for the Development of the Area on September 20, 1994, and the CNCS project was launched in 1996.
A vast and delicate restoration campaign was led by François Voinchet (architect for the Historic Monuments) and by the DRAC of Auvergne. Ten years later, the building found its original aspect: restoration of the roofs and dormer windows, removal of the extra story added after World War II. In 1997 an architectural competition for the conversion of the main building and the construction of a reserves building was won by Jean-Michel Wilmotte, with Jacques Brudin, an architect from Moulins.
The CNCS opened its doors on July 1, 2006.