If Lyon’s lively murals captured your imagination, you might like to wander down to the Etats-Unis district for a visit to the Tony Garnier Urban Museum (4 rue des Serpollieres, mutg.org), where 25 unique murals celebrate the works of this Lyon architect and town planner.
Garnier was responsible for several important structures in Lyon’s east. The old city slaughterhouses, Halle Tony Garnier, are now an auditorium used for shows and exhibitions. The Gerland Stadium, Edouard Herriot Hospital at Grange Blanche and the Tony Garnier public housing development are all creations that he worked on.
He may not have become as well known had it not been for his partnership with Edouard Herriot, who was the mayor of Lyon during the 1920s when their utopia came into existence. Herriot announced his plan to create a “plan for the extension and embellishment of the City of Lyon” in 1912. He foresaw the creation of an industrial boulevard that would co-exist with the workers’ housing. This was a natural fit for Garnier, who had been hard at work on his project of an ideal “Industrial City.” Because the United States had entered into the world conflict by 1917, Herriot thought it would be fitting to give the industrial boulevard the name “Etats-Unis Avenue.”
It would be in the area where the museum is now situated that this grand idea would be born. Prior to the construction of the public housing estate, the area was rural with only a few cottages and farms dotting the fields. Small country housing estates sprang up around 1900. In between the wars, shacks were built alongside inexpensive public housing. The housing and employment crisis brought many people to this area seeking factory work and a place to live. Garnier’s council houses weren’t fully realized until around 1921, with the first tenants moving in 12 years later. These buildings underwent renovations from 1985 to 1997. Later it was decided to paint the windowless walls with murals as homage to the complex’s creator, a project that was undertaken by CitéCréation, who are also responsible for many of the murals around Lyon.
The museum itself is an open-air museum. Pick up a guidebook when you buy your ticket for an explanation of the various panels. The neighbourhood’s 4,000 inhabitants are also part of the exhibit in a way, as you’ll be passing through their parks and corridors, and perhaps visiting their local shops as you enjoy your tour.
Getting there: Take the tram T2 east to the T4 (direction porte des Alpes; the change is at the Jet d’eau/Mendes France stop). Take T4 direction hospital Feyzin and stop at Etats-Unis/musee Tony Garnier.