A major public work is dividing public opinion across the Alps. This is the new Confluences museum in Lyon, rummy building situated in a very special location, unshered in late 2014 after years of work (started in 2003).

In order to critically go into the potential of this ambitious project launched in 1999 by the Conseil Général du Rhône (main sponsor), highlighting features and weaknesses, we turned to Stefania Caiazzo, architect, urban planner and professor at the Department of Architecture and Industrial Design of the Second University of Naples.

S.C. The inauguration of the Musée des Confluences has recently given conflicting feelings and evaluations both in the technical-disciplinary debate than in the local communities. The building has a significant impact in terms of environmental landscape – with its location at the confluence of the Rhone and Saone rivers, in one of the most significant place of France – and from the architectural point of view for the highly deconstructivist of its volumes and the materials used as glass, steel and concrete. The building deliberately imposes itself in the landscape as an object unsettling, in strong contrast with the physical environment. We can recognize close relations with the context instead in terms of functional and urban planning. First of all, we must consider that the museum is located in an area of ​​Lyon interested by an upgrading and urban regeneration. Then we have to consider that contemporary works as the Rhône-Alpes County Council Hall Christian de Portzamparc or The Orange Cube by Jakob + Macfarlane Architects characterize the place, with which the museum intends to relate to and “compete “. At last, the museum wants to extol, especially in the entry called Crystal, the representation of public space and the idea that in it “flow together” people has free access to the multiple functions that the museum offers, in part contained in the Cloud of Steel (galleries and exhibition spaces) in continuity with the input area, partly in the Plinth (auditoriums, conference rooms, library, restaurant, coffee,..) which represents the concrete basement. The Museum, called “spaceship” landed at the confluence of the rivers where all knowledge flows. The articulation of volumes and spaces is very daring, but it is in line with the stylistic architectural style of Coop Himme(l)bau, famous for its deconstructivist print. If this project had won the competition in 2011, there is no doubt, there was the will to create this kind of alienating effect.

Musée des confluences, courtesy the museum

Musée des confluences, Lyon, credits shootingsawk

The important project costs divides public opinion
What makes discussing are especially the significant costs ( in 2012 already defined as ‘delusional’) connected to a series of singularities and expensive attractions that have inflated the bill as the skeleton of Camarasaurus dinosaur dearly paid, as well as the famous mammoth Choulans and the sphinx Médamoud, all main sights. These elements joins thousands of objects mainly coming from the collections of the Musée Guimée (closed in 2007) gathered in a multidisciplinary intended to evoke several millenniums  of history distributed in three sections respectively dedicated to ‘Natural History’, ‘Arts and Crafts’,’ Ethnology ‘.
And if the beautiful ‘spaceship’ that came out is an exploits in architecture and aesthetic terms, its maintenance worries many people.Major concerns are about the location of the building and the effects of exposure to the fury of the winds of the glass structure in order to cleaning, maintain and heating it.

 Sara Rania



Cover Credits
Stéphane Sélo, Musée des confluences


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