Lyon | Museum of Confluences by CoopHimmelb(l)au

Place: Lyon, Country: France
Client: Conseil Géneral du Rhône
Architectural design:
COOP HIMMELB(L)AU Wolf D. Prix & Partner ZT GmbH
Spengergasse 37, A – 1050 Vienna
Text by Federica Lusiardi, Inexhibit
Photos: Photos: Quentin Lafont - musée des Confluences


The Museum of Confluences by CoopHimmelb(l)au

The Musée des Confluences has been inaugurated in Lyon in December, 2014.
The new museum, which incorporates the large collection of the Musée Guimet – a Natural Science museum founded in the second half of the 19th century – is aimed to promote scientific knowledge as well as to popularize subjects perceived by many as arduous and difficult to grasp.
“ Musée des Confluences” is a name which refers both to the geographical position of the museum site, located at the confluence of the rivers Rhône and Saône, and to the museum mission, namely to bring together various fields of human knowledge in a single place.


The museum’s offer is based on its huge collections, amounting to over two millions pieces collected by scientists and amateurs between the 16th and the 21st century.
An extraordinary and diverse set of objects, described by the curators as a “cabinet of wonders”, with finds related to a variety of disciplines: Mineralogy, Zoology, Paleontology, Entomology and Ethnography.
Inspired by such a rich collection, the Musée de Confluences features a permanent exhibition arranged in four main sections:

Origins – stories of the world presents the birth of our universe under both scientific and symbolic points of view. Species: the living world describes the relationships between man, as an animal species, and the complex living environment around him. Societies: the human theater depicts the past and present of social structures, cultural exchange between human cultures and the quest of man for knowledge. Eternities: visions of the hereafter is focused on how death is approached by different cultures.

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The Musée des Confluences has been designed by the Austrian architectural practice CoopHimmelb(l)au, after winning an international design competition in 2001. On a gross floor area of 21,000 square meters, 2,800 of which dedicated to the permanent exhibition and 1,900 to temporary exhibitions, the museum features also two receptions, a media library, two auditoriums and many workshops.
The building, which presents an almost zoomorphic appearance coherent with the “deconstructivist” approach typical of CoopHimmelb(l)au, is formed of three parts.
The plinth is a reinforced concrete basement on two levels, housing workshops, the auditoriums and the reception for groups, that supports the overground parts of the museum, entitled the cloud and the crystal.




The crystal, a steel and glass volume oriented toward the city, houses the main entrance hall of the museum and gives access to the exhibition galleries located in the cloud.
On 4 levels supported by pillars and with a 10,000 square meters floor area, the cloud is the core of the museum. It is conceived as a sequence of black boxes that provide a great flexibility to permanent and temporary exhibitions arrangement and houses also the Muséolab digital workshop, administration offices and a restaurant provided with a panoramic terrace. The museum also includes a garden, conceived by CoopHimmeb(l)au as a socializing space located just at the confluence of the two rivers.




Article by Federica Lusiardi, Inexhibit
Photos: Quentin Lafont – december 2014 – musée des Confluences

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