Visitors are lured by a shingled application of metallic tags.

At La Cité International de la Dentille et de la Mode de Calais, architects Moatti and Rivière operate on an existing building like a well tailored garment, amplifying its structural characteristics, sculpting a desirable figure that is fresh but not entirely unrecognizable.

Their tactics tell a narrative of the building’s former use as a lace factory. Transformed into a museum for textiles and fashion, the building recalls the meticulous detailing of a lace making. Exterior glazing wraps around the front building, bulging in and out like fabric hugging the curves of a woman’s figure.

The facade is embellished with a rhythmic pattern inspired by the traditional lace making template. Entering the lobby of the museum, visitors are lured by a shingled application of metallic tags that line the hallway walls. Atop the metal, fluorescent tubes are mounted vertically as wall sconces, adding an intimate yet industrious glow to the interior.

Traditionally, lace factories were designed to allow natural light to enter the building through repeated window frames coated with a protective blue tinting that prevented the sun from damaging the fabric.  Giving a contemporary twist to the utility of tinted windows, Moatti and Rivière layered an array of neon film along the top two rows of glazing facing the courtyard. Both bold and frivolous, the neon panes cascade a rainbow of light into the upper hallways of the gallery space, adding a dose of flair to the lingerie, gowns, and woven furniture showcased inside.

The Lace Museum in Calais was revamped like a well balanced ensemble, juxtaposing historical remnants of the factory with vibrant allure to give the building a deliciously fresh identity. The result is a building that reminds us why the intersection of fashion and architecture is so exciting. Both architecture and fashion, when done well, provide protection and structure, both play with privacy and exhibitionism, both project a constructed identity, and dare I say, produce affect. Scaled to the body or the city, the theatrics and intelligence of a well-constructed piece are irresistible.

– Devon Stonebrook