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Architecture weekend in Bordeaux: buildings not to miss

Published 16 October 2018

Are you one of those people that can roam all over a city looking for important, old or contemporary architecture? If a city’s architecture says a lot about its history and dynamism, then Bordeaux’s takes you on a journey through the centuries and offers up a renewed vision that focuses on the future. Take a look at our guide to make sure that you don’t miss Bordeaux’s best architectural gems!

La Cité du Vin, the Guggenheim of Bordeaux – Designed by the Parisian architects XTU, Anouk Legendre and Nicolas Desmazières, La Cité du Vin is an architectural masterpiece established on the former Forges site on the banks of the Garonne, in the Bassins à Flot district. ‘This building does not resemble any recognisable shape because it is an evocation of the soul of wine between the river and the city.’ A strong architectural statement, La Cité du Vin stands out with its bold curves and shape. An iconic building, this golden frame hosts a Cité within the city, a living space with experiences to discover. Explore: the first Sunday of every month there is an architecture tour where you can discover all of the building’s secrets.

Darwin, Bordeaux at its trendiest – If you are fascinated by renovated ruins which have changed in vocation over time to adapt to the customs of the era, then you will love the Darwin ecosystem. General stores under the Second French Empire and then a military barracks (the Niel barracks), Darwin is now a sustainable development and urban transition project covering three hectares of former wasteland next to the Garonne. It hosts coworking areas, start-ups, associations, an organic delicatessen and a restaurant, and puts on Darwin events and concerts that take a sustainable approach all year round.

MECA – MECA (Maison de l’Économie Créative et de la Culture en Aquitaine), the Aquitaine home of creative economy and culture that will be opening in January 2019 on Quai de Paludate, will be the next major cultural symbol of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region, housing FRAC, ECLA, Oara and various exhibition and performance spaces. This concrete building 37 metres high and 120 metres wide was designed by the BIG architecture agency and more specifically by Danish star architect Bjarke Ingles. Aged just 43, he is recognised as one of the driving forces behind the revival of modern architecture. Boasting numerous prizes and extremely successful projects such as the VM Houses in Denmark or VIA 57 West in New York, for which he won the Emporis Skyscraper Award, he has been commissioned for numerous large-scale projects all over the world, including the Two World Trade Center in 2015. MECA will be a must-see for fans of Bordeaux architecture.

Benauge fire station – A unique location at the heart of the Bastide district on Bordeaux’s right bank. Named a piece of ‘20th century heritage’ in 2008, the Benauge fire station was created by three iconic Bordeaux architects called Claude Ferret, Yves Salier and Adrien Courtois. They worked between 1950 and 1954 and were inspired by the Bauhaus school and Le Corbusier, pairing a clear understanding of volume with functionalism via simple spaces. Definitely a Bordeaux must-see!

The cathedral where Eleanor of Aquitaine got married – The Cathedral of Saint André in Bordeaux was consecrated by Pope Urban II in 1095, and then rebuilt in pure Gothic style between the 12th and 15th centuries. Various major historic figures have set foot inside it, notably Napoleon who ordered it to be rebuilt after the revolution in 1808. This is where Eleanor of Aquitaine was married to the future king of France Louis VII. However, it is also home to a wealth of architectural treasures, such as its tympanum or its absolutely stunning Angevin Gothic nave.