Winners of the international competition for the visitor complex at the Paleolithic cave paintings were recently announced – Casson Mann, Duncan Lewis and Snøhetta are the authors of the awarded entry for Lascaux IV. The proposal – subterranean complex of chambers and tunnels, is conserving the integrity of this historic site, while affording great exhibition spaces for visitors.
Low-rise structure, folding up from the landscape, gives the shelter to 17,300 years old historic paintings. Interiors of the complex are dramatically lit by shafts of sunlight. The images, discovered in 1940, have been closed to the public since 1963, due to the carbon dioxide emission from visitors, which caused severe damages to the paintings. The complex design process was happening simultaneously in two parallel realms – exhibition designers at Casson Mann were creating the architecture of the spectacle, while the architects at Snøhetta and Duncan Lewis were developing protective environment for the cave paintings.
The subtle line of the roof of the complex mimics the profiles of the surrounding Montignac hills. The façade varies in opacity, ranging from opaque to translucent and transparent, offering the preview of the interior content. Linear public spaces extend along the structure, while the exhibition areas are plunged into the hillside, ensuring the intimate and sacred atmosphere.
In the words of Jury member Bernard Cazeau, Président du Conseil Général de la Dordogne, this winning proposal was the most successful one, from the point of view of the scenography, which was the essential factor. The Lascaux IV cave painting centre is expected to open in 2015 and will welcome up to 400,000 visitors a year.