Design Destination: Inside Lyon's Creative Cool

Lyon France is most famous for it’s food and wine culture but the city was really built on the artisanal trades of printing and silk production. At the confluence of two major rivers, the Saone flowing from Burgundy to the north and the Rhone which continues to the South of France, it became a major trading port leading to the renown of these products throughout Europe. The Old Lyon section of the city on the right bank of the Saone bears the history of silk production in its Renaissance period townhouses, cobblestone streets and traboule passageways but in the Presqu’ile (peninsula) formed by the two rivers, it’s a veritable mini-Manhattan, the new mixing with the old in a spirit of creativity that is the very soul of Lyon. For Lyon, go for the food and wine, stay for the design.

See

Opera house renovated by Jean Nouvel. Photo ©Franchelle Stofleth/Lyon Tourism

Lyon’s creative heritage is silk production, reaching its peak in the 17th and 18th centuries. By Napoleon’s time, it was Europe’s largest producer. Even today, the House of Hermes makes its silk scarves in workshops here. Take a gander at vintage Hermes in the Lyon collection at the Textile Museum in the Bellecour quarter. The museum has the world’s largest textile collection of 2.5 billion pieces covering over four millennia of design.

Photo A. Hanami

Downtown at the confluence of the Saone and Rhone rivers, 370 acres of formerly abandoned industrial space and riverfront have been transformed into modern housing, commercial, leisure, shopping and public spaces, called the Confluence project.

The revitalization of the Quai Rambaud warehouses and docks is symbolized by the Cube Orange (featured at top) designed by Paris architects Jakob + MacFarlane. The Cube’s large void unites the docks with the river by seemingly absorbing it through space and light. From inside, it focuses one's view on the beauty of the surrounding hills. The Cube’s shape was designed to contrast with curved arches of the restored Salins warehouse next door, its orange color a nod to the lead paint historically used in harbor zones. Its lacy aluminum façade and airy balconies add lightness and elegance to the design.

Image © ISOCHROM.com, Vienna

Anchoring the southern tip of the Presqu'ile is the Museum of Confluence for the sciences, arts and societies, designed by Vienna-based Coop Himmmel(b)lau, expected to open in winter 2014. The exterior nearly complete, the glass and steel structure makes a striking appearance from the highway, changing form as one drives by. On the one side, the ‘cloud’ structure holds the future, while the edgier, chiseled and luminous ‘crystal’ side casts a light on the here and now. 86 quai Perrache

Shop

The Presqu’ile has its boulevards of luxury brand stores but for unique Lyon momentos, seek out the silk shops for locally made, easy-to-pack scarves or ties, peruse the antiques quarter around rue Auguste Compte near the Textile Museum, or dive for treasures at the mother of all brocante Les Puces du Canal, France’s second largest flea market, which is further away in the 7th district.

Photo A. Hanami

In the Village des Createurs, a collection of design workshops in the passageway Thiaffait in the Terreaux quarter, you'll find engaging owners with strong personal styles.

Photo A. Hanami

Amandine Leforestier’s cotton jersey collection transitions easily from day to evening. The look is so effortless and with flats and upswept hair, would be very current in LA, SF or NYC. The well-priced collection is in flattering neutrals of gray and white with some camel, the fabrics transitioning to wool for winter.

Photo courtesy Andrea Vaggione

I love the monochromatic look of Andera Vaggione’s oxidized silver jewelry. Both her flower and new pagoda collections have a pleasing symmetry based on nature, have substance in material and femininity in form. Passage Thiaffait, 19 rue René Leynaud

Stay

Photo courtesy Philippe Starck

Philippe Starck’s Mama Shelter hotel is just on the other side of the Rhone in the Jean Mace university quarter, it’s location, prices and hipster look giving it a Brooklyn vibe.

Photo courtesy Philippe Starck

The public areas are vibrant and communal with large tables and long bar, but the clean, simple lines of the rooms create a calm mood at night. 13 rue Domer

Photo courtesy Philippe Starck

 

Sip

Last call. Photo A. Hanami

We loved the just-opened Redwood Bar in the Terreaux quarter, a rum-based establishment with over 80 different selections. Try the Redwood Swizzle with lemongrass and bitters. 1 rue Chavanne

Photo A. Hanami

The only thing antique about L’Antiquaire are the old spirits bottles displayed in the walls of this “proper” bar – dim lighting, red leather booths to sink down in and mixologists who can craft anything you wish. 20 rue Hippolyte Flandrin

Savor

Photo A. Hanami

Dining options are endless in Lyon, from the classic bouchons to 3-star Michelin restaurants. I love the pedestrian street of rue Merciere just for the energy, and it’s right in central Presqu’ile in the Cordeliers quarter. For typical Lyon experiences that drip with atmosphere, try Le Bistrot Lyon for classics like quenelle fish or saucisson sausage, or in the Terreaux quarter, Leon de Lyon brasserie. The beverage of choice here is by all means Beaujolais.

Sojourn to Wine Country

The garden at Georges Duboeuf. Photo A. Hanami

Lyon is the gateway to Beaujolais Wine Country a mere 35 miles to the north. If you can only go to one place, head to the Village of Georges Duboeuf for multiple fun and eye-popping wine experiences in one location. In an interview last week, Georges Duboeuf said that since the time he was a boy growing up on a farm in Burgundy, the family tradition was always to share the joy of food, wine and good times. This personal drive has led to the success of his wines to this day. On September 4, 2014, the Georges Duboeuf brand celebrates its 50th anniversary. 796 route de la gare, Romanèche-Thorins

There’s something quixotic about Beaujolais, the original fruit-driven wine and the font of conviviality and inspiration for Lyon’s creative culture. Follow your dream. For tourism information, check Beaujolais.com. 

For more information on visiting Lyon, visit the Only Lyon website.

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