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Musée des Confluences

Coop Himmelb(l)au

The French city of Lyon has been shaped by the rivers Rhône and Saône, which course through it. Once a bustling industrial port, the seedy neighbourhood on the peninsula formed at the confluence of the rivers is now in the process of becoming a new residential, retail and business district.
Designed by Coop Himmelb(l)au, the aptly named Musée des Confluences is a central feature of the revitalization process on account of its location on the triangular isthmus of land between the two rivers, and for its functional programme.
The project was adjudicated the contract in 2001 but construction started only in 2010.  Conceived as a museum of technology, biology and ethics, the building aims to be more than a mere container of exhibits, rather a place for experiencing knowledge where information is made accessible to a broad public audience.
The programme is posited on a dual tension: between the city and nature, on the one hand, and between experience and knowledge, on the other. This dual relationship is given material form in a building raised above the ground and made up of two components: a “crystal” and a “cloud”.
Raising the building off the ground allows unobstructed views and access from the city to the river. It also creates a covered public space, an ideal bridge linking science and society.
The area between the riverbanks and around the hovering architecture has a series of ramps and slopes that dissolve the natural gradient and create a dynamic sequence of spatial events. The building’s podium, above which the “crystal” and “cloud” hover, houses auditoriums, archives and laboratories and is an imposing multi-facetted part of the landscape.
Facing the city, the “crystal” - a multifaceted glazed volume - welcomes visitors into a huge public foyer leading to the exhibition and activity areas of the museum proper located inside the...

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