in south western france, the collaborative team of snøhetta and casson mann has completed ‘the international centre for cave art’. also known as ‘lascaux IV’, the complex provides visitors with an immersive educational experience of prehistoric 20,000-year-old paintings — referred to by archaeologists as the ‘sistine chapel of prehistory’.

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image © boegly + grazia photographers (also main image)

 

 

in developing the project, architects snøhetta and SRA, as well as scenographer casson mann, worked closely with a team of archaeologists to create a holistic museum and educational experience. the scheme intends to offer visitors an opportunity to experience the caves as if they were explorers discovering the prehistoric cave paintings for the first time.

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image © eric solé 2017

 

 

conceived as a fine cut in the landscape, the museum is located between a densely-forested hillside and the agricultural vézère valley. ‘the form and materiality of the museum have a monolithic, sober expression, speaking to the surrounding nature and the massive rock formations embedded in the hill, with a new public, agricultural landscape unfolding around it,’ explains the design team.

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image © eric solé 2017

 

 

the visitor experience begins in the lobby where guests ascend to a roof terrace overlooking the picturesque landscape. visitors then descend a gentle slope towards the replica cave. inside, the damp and dark atmosphere recreates the humidity of the caves. ‘this sequence is dedicated to contemplation, allowing people an experience of the sanctuary that once was,’ says snøhetta. ‘lights flicker just as the animal fat lamps of paleolithic times did, revealing the layers of paintings and engravings on the surface of the walls.’

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image © eric solé 2017

 

 

in order to replicate the original cave form to a 1 millimeter tolerance, the facsimile was developed using advanced 3D laser scanning and casting technologies. following its construction, 25 artists spent two years hand-painting 900 meters of resin rock reproductions. the artists even used the same pigments that the prehistoric painters used. upon exiting, visitors arrive at a transitional contemplative space known as the cave garden.

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image © dan courtice

 

 

the interpretive center provides exhibitions that convey the history of the vézère valley and its cave paintings. installations by casson mann are enhanced by digital learning experiences, employing new technological devices and interactive screens. the first exhibition space contains eight hanging rock wall fragments. this area also provides information on the history of the caves, their discovery, why the real cave is now closed, and how the artists of 20,000 years ago used to work.

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image © boegly + grazia photographers

 

 

the cave art theatre presents a 3D film that takes visitors on a digital voyage, while the imagination gallery allows visitors to explore the influence of prehistoric cave art on modern and contemporary artists. this content has been curated by john paul jouary, professor, philosopher and author, whose work is devoted to the relationship between paleolithic art and the art of our time. the lascaux IV international centre for cave art opened in montignac, france on december 15, 2016.

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image © dan courtice

snohetta-casson-mann-lascaux-IV-international-centre-for-cave-art-montignac-france-designboom-02
image © eric solé 2017

snohetta-casson-mann-lascaux-IV-international-centre-for-cave-art-montignac-france-designboom-02
image © boegly + grazia photographers

snohetta-casson-mann-lascaux-IV-international-centre-for-cave-art-montignac-france-designboom-02
image © boegly + grazia photographers

snohetta-casson-mann-lascaux-IV-international-centre-for-cave-art-montignac-france-designboom-02
image © eric solé 2017

 

 

project info:

 

location: montignac, france
address: avenue de lascaux, 24290 montignac, france
client: conseil général de la dordogne
ground surface: 11,400 sqm / 122,708 sqf
total floor surface: 8,365 sqm / 90,040 sqf
total plot size: 53,065 sqm / 571,187 sqf
status: completed
project duration: 2012 – 2016
opening date: december 15, 2016
architect: snøhetta
landscape architect: snøhetta
interior architect: snøhetta
scenography: casson mann
associate architect: SRA Architectes
associate architect, study phase: duncan lewis scape architecture

 

collaborators
virtual reality specialist, study phase: jangled nerves
construction economist: VPEAS
structural design: khephren ingéniere
fluids, roads and utilities engineering: alto ingénierie
façades and glass design: RFR
lighting designer: 8’18’’
acoustical engineering: commins dBlab
management and operating company: semitour périgord

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