The Museum of Confluences (Musée des Confluences) in Lyon, France, captivates visitors with a fascinating permanent exhibition dedicated to natural history and anthropology. The building also boasts a striking modern design by the renowned architect Wolf D. Prix. The magnificent structure is known as “the glass cloud” due to the unique effect caused by the materials used in its construction: glass, concrete, and stainless steel, as well as its elevated location at the tip of the peninsula where the Rhone and Saone rivers meet.
The design of the Musée des Confluences is based on the concept of confluence—as its name suggests—drawing inspiration from the natural environment and the institution’s purpose, which covers various expressions of art, history, natural science, philosophy, and architecture.
A spectacular lobby greets visitors with a vast atrium of translucent glass and metal structures featuring a cone that descends from the ceiling to the center of the lobby. Inside the building, a striking spiral ramp surrounding the cone becomes a focal point and allows visitors to appreciate the complexity of the construction.
When asked about the inspiration for the museum’s design, architect Wolf D. Prix says, “Since we cannot occupy a space without thinking about gravity, we have to build buildings that allow us to move freely through the space. That is why the spirals, bridges, and ramps are an integral part of the design vocabulary used to create this building.” And he adds, “ The word confluence, understood as unity and flow, is not only the starting point of the aesthetics of the museum’s exterior, but also defines the content of the exhibitions held within its walls.”
The galleries are organized to offer four main exhibitions at the same time. The first is called The Origins and combines elements of natural science, mythology, and religion that describe the different theories about the origin of life. The second, called Species focuses on the influence human beings have had in the development of the various animal forms, inviting visitors to reflect on the impact of humans on the natural ecosystem.
In the third gallery, we find the exhibition Societies: The Human Drama, which chronicles the cultural and social relationships of humanity from the concepts of organization, sharing, and creation. And finally, the fourth gallery called Eternities: Visions of the Afterlife reflects on death and its different interpretations throughout history and in different cultures and religions.
The museum also has two public spaces worth visiting. One is a square located below the main hall, decorated with a sober, rectangular fountain that contrasts with the sloping planes of the roof, and the other is an elevated lookout which offers spectacular views of the city and the confluence of the rivers bordering the building.
Since its inauguration in December 2014, the Musée des Confluences has brought to the city of Lyon a new modern and innovative profile, and today is one of the most attractive reasons to visit this beautiful city in central France. It brings forth a philosophy of meeting and discovering, a taste fur cultural exchange, and a cross-generational and intercultural intelligence. ■