It looks a bit like a spaceship, and it's taken longer than a NASA mission to Pluto to finish, but France's newest museum is finally ready to welcome its first visitors.
The £200m ($A383) Musee des Confluences opens in Lyon's revitalised docklands.
The Musee (museedesconfluences.fr) will have been a familiar sight to anyone driving to the south of the France for the last few summers. It sits cheek by jowl with the A7 Autoroute du Soleil, that notorious summer car park for caravans with dreams of getting to Provence in less than a week.
The museum is Lyon's new symbol, symbolically stationed at the southern gateway to France's beautiful third city. But its gestation hasn't been easy. The competition to build it was held back in 2001, and the project has been delayed, incurring spiralling costs. Even by the notoriously glacial speeds of architecture, this was as slow as an escargot you can slurp by the bowlful in a Lyonnaise bouchon.
Now the city is relieved the Musee is finally open, and keen to show off its new toy. "The museum's architecture - a deconstructivist design - is an object of curiosity in itself," said Helene Lafont-Couturier, director of the new museum. "At the confluence of the Rhône and Saône rivers, this airy structure of crystal glass and intersecting steel offers an unparalleled view that changes with the light of day, the seasons and the weather."
What you suspect they wanted is their 'own Guggenheim' – a 'sightbite' building to put Lyon on the map like Bilbao. The architects were imaginative Viennese studio Coop Himmelb(l)au, led by the enigmatic and expressively monikered Wolf Prix.The studio is the current go-to guys for wonky walls - having built the asymmetric new Music House in Aalborg in March, and the skewed new HQ for the European Central Bank in Frankfurt, which was finished last month.
The Musee des Confluences though, looks more like a prone lizard ready to pounce, or something that could disgorge a cargo of aliens. It's not aliens residing inside though, but natural history and anthropology items shifted over from collections built up by the likes of 19th Century Lyon chemist and collector Émile Guimet, who spent his Francs on decorative objects and naïve art from the Orient.
The Musee des Confluences will also be home to a 1,000 year-old mummy discovered in 2012 at a temple called Pachacamac outside Lima, in Peru.
"We tell the story of man from his origins to modern day," explained Lafont-Couturier, "visitors will be able to touch some of the objects and satisfy their curiosity."
The museum contains more than 2 million objects – from Egyptian artifacts to fossils, from precious stones to pre-historic tools. And they don't want it to be stuffy. Future events promised by Lafonte-Couturier include world music concerts using instruments from the collections, comic strips, and dance performances based on an exhibition about the body.
The museum is the icing on the gateau for Lyon's former docks, Les Confluences, which have been undergoing the kind of huge changes seen in London's Docklands. The other main attraction nearby is La Sucriere (lasucriere-lyon.com). This handsome former sugar factory - whose silos wear the wonderful super-sized nametags 'GAUCHE' and 'DROIT' - is now a gallery and music venue.
The Telegraph, London