Building construction

An architectural and technical feat in a rapidly changing district

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Designed by the architectural firm XTU, Anouk Legendre and Nicolas Desmazières, La Cité du Vin was established on the former Forges site on the banks of the Garonne, in the Bassins à Flot district in northern Bordeaux. From the laying of the foundation stone in June 2013 to the inauguration of the finished building in late May 2016, three years of ongoing, spectacular work have created this majestic structure unique the world over. Technical expertise, raising the bar, endurance and customisation were the key concepts behind the construction of La Cité du Vin.

Bassins à Flot and the former Forges site

The Bassins à Flot district is an industrial area which is still home to pockets of activity. These docks are lined with a mix of nautical industries, small business and a rich network of associations, but also acres of disused industrial land. They are also home to some of the facilities of the Grand Port Autonome de Bordeaux.

A large-scale renovation project is underway in the district. The driving philosophy is a ‘new approach to urban development’ with the aim of transforming the Bassins à Flot area into an eco-district which will make extensive use of new energy systems. La Cité du Vin’s new home, the former Forges site, reflects the industrial history of this riverside district in northern Bordeaux. Belonging to the Grand Port Autonome until 2011, until that point this site was a hub of port maintenance activity. Consisting of various sheds which have now been destroyed to enable construction of the new building, the plot of land looks out over the Garonne. It is located next to the locks at the entrance to Bassins à Flot.

Major construction phases

On Wednesday 19 June 2013, all of those involved in the La Cité du Vin project gathered at the Forges site to kick-start construction with the symbolic gesture of laying the foundation stone. Construction began on the La Cité du Vin foundations in January 2014: 300 stakes between 50 cm and 120 cm in diameter were set in the ground to serve as an anchor in the hard rock, down to depths of up to 30 metres.

This structural work required 40 companies, 20 trades, 9,000 m3 of concrete and 4,000 m2 of plywood panels.

Construction work on the toroid frame (the lower portion of the building), consisting of 574 arches made from 1,200 m3 of Nordic spruce and French Douglas fir and covered with a waterproof membrane, began in July 2014. 128 wooden spines wind around the building’s tower, taking it to its ultimate height of 55 metres. 2,500 silk-screen printed aluminium panels and 900 perforated glass panels make up the facade of La Cité du Vin with its multitude of reflections. Wooden arches and spines, glass and aluminium panels: each element is unique, demonstrating the architect’s strong concept and enabling millimetre-precision adjustment to the building’s curves.

Discover photographer Isabelle Rozenbaum’s personal, sensitive look at the human adventure and techniques of construction over 36 months on site:

Carte blanche  

A statuesque building 

Rooted in the banks of the Garonne, La Cité du Vin can be seen and experienced even before you visit. The building’s architecture is an evocation. It stimulates the imagination – an impressive lighthouse rising to 55 metres, a swan in this majestic port, the ‘seamless roundness’ of the building calls to mind different worlds depending on your perspective: gnarled vine stock, eddies on the Garonne, or even wine swirling in a glass.

Split over ten levels, La Cité du Vin is an architectural space 13,350 m2 in size with a tower stretching 55 metres high and an eighth-floor viewing platform 35 metres in the air. Inside, it is split into numerous spaces to ensure that La Cité du Vin is a unique venue offering multiple experiences.

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