Glasss building near sea
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Normandy has a legacy of lace making that goes back centuries, but it isn't till now that the area has got a building to celebrate the tradition.

Appropriately located in an old lace factory right on the docks of Calais, The Fashion and Lace Museum, designed by Paris-based architectural duo, Alain Moatti and Henry Rivière of Agence Moatti & Rivière, the minds behind the Jean-Paul Gautier HQ and the Yves Saint Laurent concept store in Paris, opened last week.

Building floor

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See more images of the Fashion and Lace museum in Calais

The architects took full advantage of the existing generous industrial spaces of the old Boulard factory, preserving its identity but also transforming it into a thoroughly contemporary space. While interventions were minimal, they were effective and the team focused on experimenting with light, playfully using tinted glass to bring a variety of natural light qualities in the interiors, controlling at the same time light levels in the permanent exhibition areas.

However, the building’s most striking element is undoubtedly its new contemporary façade, a curved glazing featuring lace-like patterns that glow when lit from behind, enveloping the front of the existing structure and the temporary exhibitions hall behind.

The exhibition extends over two levels and covers all ages of lace-making from the early 19th century – showcasing gorgeous and rare hand-made designs, to later industrial production’s large machines and through to contemporary lace presented in haute couture creations by, for example, Jean-Paul Gautier and Chantal Thomas.

Inspired by the properties of lace, the architects (who as well as being leaders in their own field come from separate artistic backgrounds - Moatti in photography and set design, while Rivière is a trained cabinet-maker) were keen to combine fashion, technology and traditional handicraft together under one roof, creating a comprehensive and inspiring journey into the fascinating fabric.

Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture & Environment Director at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018), Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020) and House London (2022).