A giant made of glass, steel and concrete covering an overall area of 21,000 sqm, with a height of 41 meters, a length of 190 meters and 90 meters in width: these are the main figures of the Musée des Confluences, open at the end of December on the southern tip of the city of Lyon at the confluence of rivers Rhone and Saône, hence the name of the Museum.The special feature of the work, signed by the Austrian architects of COOP HIMMELB(L)AU, is represented by a “free form” geometry that reminds us of a spaceship, generated by two large architectural units: a Crystal-shaped unit and a Cloud-shaped one. The Crystal is the entry point for visitors and “prepares” them for the visit of the Museum; it is characterized by a structure in glass and steel defining its crystalline form and a transparent cone descending from the top of the roof to the floor.The Cloud, on the other hand, coated by opaque panels, is similar to a spacecraft and encloses the rooms of the Museum.
The Permasteelisa Group, through its subsidiaries Permasteelisa France and Gartner, made it possible to realize the Crystal, the most complex part from a design point of view, and the 11 opening panels in glass allowing light to enter in the area of the Cloud.
The extremely complex geometry of the Crystal required the use of three-dimensional design of the entire steel structure and the glazed panels; in order to realize the “Well of Gravity” only, the glass cone with a height of 30 meters which is peculiar to this area of the Museum, 160 special knots connecting the glass to the steel of the structure were designed.
The process that has led to the design and construction of glasses covering the Well also was very complicated: all heat bent glasses have different levels of curvature. The 4 panels located in the lower area, near the end of the cone, are characterized by a radius of curvature of 500 mm, which is typical of airplanes’ cockpits but certainly not for architectural glasses of 4.5 meters of height used for the project. Finally, the entire Crystal is coated with self-heating glasses, whose system operates in the case of snow accumulation, and is supported by a 650 tonnes steel structure.
The conception of this work originates precisely from its geographical position, which is reflected by the appearance of the Musée des Confluences, formidable virtuosity and unpredictable combination of a crystal glass and a cloud of steel supported by a cement base. Inside, the 3,000 sqm of the permanent exhibition tell the origin of the world, the appearance of the man, the evolution and eternity in an unusual cross relationship of disciplines where ethnology mixes with zoology, Egyptology, astronautics.
In addition to the exhibition area, the Musée des Confluences contains two auditoriums, a library, workshops for schools, a digital hub, restaurants and a panoramic terrace with a breath-taking view of the confluence between the Rhone and the Saône.