Located at the very tip of Lyon’s Presqu’Île
district, where, as the name suggests, the Saône and the Rhône meet, the Musée
des Confluences received more than 150,000 visitors in the first few weeks of
2015, having opened just before Christmas, 2014.
If you have never visited a museum in your life before, and even if you vowed you never would; now is the time to break that vow. Go out of your way to visit Lyon for this museum alone; you will not be disappointed...amazed, sure, but not disappointed. This extravagantly modern concept in museum design is the successor of the former Musée Guimet and the Musée d'Histoire Naturelle to whose collections, with superlative understatement, ‘it has given a new configuration’.
And what a configuration! This is Brigit Bardot meets the Eiffel Tower meets the Millau Viaduct meets a team of museum-ists with a very idiosyncratic slant on design, and, possibly, exclusive access to be best wines of the Rhône valley. This is a dynamic and thought-provoking project that confronts contemporary questions, issues and challenges, or, in less articulate language, one weird, wacky world of wonderment.
The building itself is a monumental collaboration of ideas meant to create an environment that facilitates the links between things of the earth and things of the skies, of Crystal and Cloud, symbolising openness to the surrounding world.
The Cloud element is constructed from a diversity of materials and standing on three principal columns and fourteen monumental pillars that provide a load-bearing skeleton and an outer skin with a combined weight of 6,000 tonnes.
Inside, it’s all lifts and escalators and stairs and metal struts and great glass roofs. One floor is given to temporary exhibitions, although with more than 800 items on display it would take some changing; one level up and we reached the permanent displays set either side of a grand couloir. There are more than 3,000 pieces on display from stromatolites to a huge-osaurus, butterflies to brown bears, luxury cars to waffle makers; it’s all quite bewildering in the most delightful way. Even the adults gaze in wonder.
The underlying thought behind the permanent displays is to demonstrate the enormous variety of human existence, ‘...encompassing nature and the environment, the objects we have created and the techniques we have developed, but also our myths, narratives and geographical locations.’
There are museums and museums, but I have to say this doesn't feel like a museum, it doesn't look like a museum, and it doesn't smell like a museum. You really can spend a whole day in here – with a break for lunch, of course – and since that’s what I did, I heartily commend you to do the same.