The Musée des Confluences, designed by Coop Himmelb(l)au, is located on a peninsula that was artificially extended 100 years ago in France. The building 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. In order to build a museum of knowledge, a complex new form had to be developed as an iconic gateway.
It was important to the concept that the flow of visitors arriving from the city to the Pointe du Confluent should not be impeded by a building. The idea was therefore to develop an openly traversable building that would be floating in part only on supports, in order to create a public space underneath. The location of the building at the confluence of the Rhône and the Saône inspired the superposition in urban space of two complexly linked architectural units, crystal and cloud. This is why the architect call it as “The Crystal Cloud of Knowledge”.
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. By contrast, the crystal performs like an urban square, receiving visitors and preparing them for the museum experience. This crystalline nature results from its glass-and-steel construction. Essentially, the building consists of two auditoriums (for 327 and 122 persons, respectively), ten exhibition spaces on three levels, an upper level of administrative offices, and workspaces.