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Musee des Confluences – “Crystal Cloud of Knowledge” brings knowledge to life

In 2001, the Austrian architects Coop Himmelb(l)au, Wolf D. Prix & Partner, internationally famous for their deconstructed architecture, were commissioned to design the Musée des Confluences, their first project in France. According to its mixed use the spectaculous Musée des Confluences combines two contrary building shapes: a crystal and a cloud.

Musee-des-Confluences-By-Coop-Himmelblau-03-Duccio-Malagamba-759x493 Musée des Confluences / Coop Himmelb(l)au

© Duccio Malagamba

These free shapes and the resulting structural and building physical queries have placed extreme demands on the Josef Gartner GmbH steel construction and glass façade. By contrast, the crystal, rising towards the city side, functions as a transparent urban forum; it faces the city and receives visitors.

“Its clear, readable forms stand for the world in which we move each day. The cloud, by contrast, holds the knowledge of the future. What is known and what is to be explored are understood in the Musée des Confluences as a spatial experimental design to stimulate public curiosity.” – Coop Himmelb(l)au

Musee-des-Confluences-By-Coop-Himmelblau-07-Duccio-Malagamba-759x506 Musée des Confluences / Coop Himmelb(l)au

© Duccio Malagamba

The symbolic site demanded a powerful architectural statement, and Coop Himmelb(l)au’s response to the museum’s cultural project was a combination of three architectural units, the Crystal, the Cloud and the Plinth.

  • The Plinth (surface area 8,700 sq.m) in concrete, acts as the base for the Cry stal and the Cloud. F ourteen monumental posts and three principal piers support the 6,000-tonne Cloud. On its tw o semi-buried lev Plinth houses the tw o auditoriums, groups reception, priv ate rental spaces and the museum’s technical areas (storerooms, w orkshops, etc.).
  • The Crystal (surface area 1,900 sq.m, 40 m high) entirely in glass and steel, is the main reception, circulation and meeting space from which one accesses the Cloud. The central Gravity Well, an architectural tour deforce, supports and stabilises the Crystal’s metallic structure. In winter and summer the Crystal’s temperature is regulated by its sun screen and heating and cooling s y stem in the floor.
  • The Cloud (surface 10,900 sq.m), a metallic structure and a stainless steel env elope, houses all the museum’s e xhibition spaces on four levels: Level 1: temporary exhibition spaces, Muséolab – Level 2: permanent exhibition spaces, educational workshops. – Level 3: administration and private rental spaces. – level 4: Terrace and Café.
Musee-des-Confluences-By-Coop-Himmelblau-15-flickr-Lina-Schenker-800x1200 Musée des Confluences / Coop Himmelb(l)au

© flickr-Lina Schenker

The architectural concept behind Coop Himmelb(l)au’s design for the Musée des Confluences integrates its unique location on a peninsula directly at the confluence of the Rhône and Saône: A clearly structured crystal that serves as a public forum faces a cloud, a flexible “soft” space that holds the knowledge of the future.

Musee-des-Confluences-By-Coop-Himmelblau-21-flickr-Vasily-Baburov-759x507 Musée des Confluences / Coop Himmelb(l)au

© flickr-Vasily Baburov

The Musée des Confluences does not consider itself as an exclusive “temple of the Muses” for the educated elite, but as a public access to the knowledge of our time, as a bridge between science and society. It encourages direct and active use – not just as a museum, but as a venue in the city, as a new urban space. Designed to encompass the core themes of technology, biology and ethics, it focuses on the needs of the modern information society and makes current information tangible to a broad public audience.

Musee-des-Confluences-By-Coop-Himmelblau-25-flickr-Dominik-Fusina-759x522 Musée des Confluences / Coop Himmelb(l)au

© flickr-Dominik Fusina

The architecture is just as changeable as the knowledge it is entrusted with; it forms a landscape of various ramps and levels where the boundaries between the inside and outside dissolve, until the structure becomes a dynamic sequence of spatial events. The arrangement of the exhibition spaces also follows this movement. Joined by a boulevard, enclosed black boxes and free exhibition areas alternate on two levels – it is an experimental spatial design that deviates from conventional passageways and spurs public curiosity.

Musee-des-Confluences-By-Coop-Himmelblau-27-flickr-Y-M-759x514 Musée des Confluences / Coop Himmelb(l)au

© flickr-Y M

The outside structure is shaped by the two components of the “crystal ” and the “cl oud”. Facing the city, the crystal offers an urban forum and welcomes visitors with a monumental stairway. Its clear and legible forms, featuring a distinctive central funnel, represent the world that we move in every day. As the actual museum, the cloud holds present and future knowledge – a flexible space with hidden streams and countless transitions.

Musee-des-Confluences-By-Coop-Himmelblau-34-flickr-virole_bridee-759x569 Musée des Confluences / Coop Himmelb(l)au

© flickr-virole_bridee

“The museum will drive the development of this former industrial district forward. The entire building floats in the air to allow unobstructed access from the city to the water or to the peninsula,” is how Wolf D. Prix, Design Principal and CEO of Coop Himmelb(l)au explains the concept behind the Musée des Confluences. “I would describe it as a passage concept that creates new urban space, a gateway to the new district.”

Musee-des-Confluences-By-Coop-Himmelblau-37-flickr-Richard-D.-797x1200 Musée des Confluences / Coop Himmelb(l)au

© flickr-Richard D.

The society of the future will be a society of knowledge. But this knowledge can no longer be divided into separate specialized areas. Innovation is created in the spaces between, in the blurred areas, in hybrid and overlapping zones. The questions of the future are decided in the transitional areas between technology, biology and ethics – the core themes of the Musée des Confluences. In architecture, these themes are expressed by formal mutation, penetration, deformation, simultaneity, resolution and changeability.

The idea of the permanent reinvention of an urban event anables Lyon to perfectly position itself within a regional as well as within a global context.

Musee-des-Confluences-By-Coop-Himmelblau-45-flickr-jackfre2-759x569 Musée des Confluences / Coop Himmelb(l)au

© flickr-jackfre2

Coop Himmelb(l)au:

The Musée des Confluences understands itself not as an exclusive “Temple of the Muses” for the educated elite, but as a public gateway to the knowledge of our time. It stimulates a direct, active use—not only as a place of contemplation, but also as a meeting place in the city.

The striking interface situation of the construction site at the eponymous confluence of the Rhône and the Saône inspired the superposition in urban space of two complexly linked architectural units, crystal and cloud. The cloud structure, floating on pillars, contains a spatial sequence of black boxes— admitting no daylight, so as to achieve maximum flexibility for exhibition design.

Musee-des-Confluences-By-Coop-Himmelblau-73-flickr-Laurent-ABRY-759x757 Musée des Confluences / Coop Himmelb(l)au

© flickr-Laurent ABRY

Hard Space – Soft Space:

The Crystal performs like an urban square, receiving visitors and preparing them for the museum experience. It is oriented toward the world in which we daily evolve; its contours are precise; its form is crystalline and measurable. This crystalline nature results from its glass-and-steel construction. Large panes of glass are mounted in steel frames: assemblages that, by virtue of being resistant to flexion, make the various folded surfaces seem reflective. The Gravity Well —a central element— provide a refrain both to the structural efforts and to the luminous sculpture.

Musee-des-Confluences-By-Coop-Himmelblau-79-flickr-Lina-Schenker-759x506 Musée des Confluences / Coop Himmelb(l)au

© flickr-Lina Schenker

The Cloud, by contrast, resembles an immense spaceship, stowed temporarily in present time and place, its deep entrails harboring the exhibition spaces. There are ten exhibition spaces on three levels, as well as an upper level of administrative offices. Three of the galleries are intended for permanent exhibitions; the seven others are for temporary exhibitions. An interstitial open space, named “Connecting Space,” traverses all these spaces and weaves a network of traffic between them to serve museography.

Musee-des-Confluences-By-Coop-Himmelblau-85-Duccio-Malagamba-759x435 Musée des Confluences / Coop Himmelb(l)au

© Duccio Malagamba

Project Data:

Project name: Musee des Confluences
Location: 86 Quai Perrache, 69002 Lyon, France
Coordinates: 45.732731, 4.818104
Type: Museum
Site Area: 20,975 sqm
Net Floor Area: 26,700 sqm
Gross Floor Area: 46,476 sqm
Length: 190 m
Width: 90 m
Height: 41 m
Status: Built
Building Costs: EUR 150 Mio
Completion Year: 2014
Opening Date: December 20th, 2014
Visit Design Museum Holon’s website: here

The people:

Client / Owner / Developer: Conseil Géneral du Rhône
Architects: Coop Himmelb(l)au – – Spengergasse 37, A – 1050 Vienna, Austria
Design Principal: Wolf D. Prix
Project Partner: Markus Prossnigg
Project Architects: Mona Bayr, Angus Schoenberger
Design Architect: Tom Wiscombe
Project Coordination: Thomas Margaretha, Peter Grell
Project Team Vienna:

  • Christopher Beccone, Guy Bébié, Lorenz Bürgi, Wolfgang Fiel, Kai Hellat, Robert Haranza, Alex Jackson, Georg Kolmayr, Daniel Kerbler, Lucas Kulnig, Andreas Mieling, Marianna Milioni, Daniel Moral, Jutta Schädler, Andrea Schöning, Mario Schwary, Markus Schwarz, Oliver Tessmann, Dionicio Valdez, Philipp Vogt, Markus Wings, Christoph Ziegler

Project Team Lyon:

  • Patrick Lhomme, Francois Texier, Philippe Folliasson, Etienne Champenois, Alexandru Gheorghe, Niels Hiller, Emanuele Iacono, Pierre-Yves Six

Local Architects:

  • Planning: Patriarche & Co, Chambéry/Lyon, France
  • Execution: Tabula Rasa / Grégory Perrin, Lyon, France
  • Project Managerment: Chabanne & Partenaires, Lyon, France

Construction Survey Lyon: Debray Ingénierie, Caluire et Cuire, France
Costs: Mazet & Associés, Paris, France / CUBIC, Lyon, France
Structural Engineering:

  • Design: B+G Ingenieure, Bollinger und Grohmann GmbH, Frankfurt, Germany
  • Executive: Coyne et Bellier, Lyon, France / VS_A, Lille, France

HVAC: ITEE-Fluides, Arnas, France
Security Fire Consultation: Cabinet Casso & Cie, Paris, France
Acoustics: Cabinet Lamoureux, Paris, France
Media Consulation: Cabinet Labeyrie, Paris, France
Lighting Consultation: Har Hollands, Eindhoven, Netherlands
Landscape Design: EGIS aménagement, Lyon, France
Text Description: © Courtesy of Musee des Confluences, Coop Himmelb(l)au
Images: © Musee des Confluences, Coop Himmelb(l)au, Duccio Malagamba, Markus Pillhofer, Hubert Canet, flickr-Lina Schenker, flickr-jackfre2, flickr-Richard D., flickr-Lucio, flickr-Laurent ABRY, flickr-Ludinosaure, flickr-Guillaume Bessonat, flickr-Vasily Baburov, flickr-virole_bridee, flickr-Y M, flickr-Dominik Fusina

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Musée des Confluences / Coop Himmelb(l)au
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