Site Verrier de Meisenthal: Dialogue with Industrial Heritage


Architects: SO-IL
Location: Meisenthal, France
Area: 6,500 m2
Year: 2021
Photography: Iwan Baan

Hidden in the bucolic landscape of Northern Vosges Natural Park, Site Verrier de Meisenthal is a publicly funded active cultural center in a historic glass factory dating back to the 18th century.

Three independent yet interrelated institutions are sited on different levels: the glass museum (Musée du Verre et du Cristal) – a living memory tracing the history of glass at the site; the CIAV (Centre International d’Art Verrier) – an international glass art center where traditional craftsmanship meets contemporary practices; and the Cadhame (Halle Verrière) – a multidisciplinary cultural space hosting art installations, happenings and concerts. Our intervention brings them together to define a contemporary institutional identity in dialogue with an industrial heritage.

An undulating poured-in-place concrete surface alludes to glass production while it merges the buildings. The surface functions as roof, ceiling and wall, connecting the buildings’ ground floors to shape a public plaza. New functions are sensitively introduced under and over this surface, including offices, workshop areas, a cafe and a restaurant.

Existing building functions are reimaged and extended: the factory hall is given a new entrance on a previously unused basement floor and a 500-seat black box theater that can be reconfigured as a theater with standing room for 700 or opened into a concert hall for 3,000. The new public space heightens civic awareness of the historical site and also introduces a highly flexible venue for outdoor theater performances, concerts, and seasonal festivities.