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Discover the architecture of La Cité du Vin!


Designed by Anouk Legendre and Nicolas Desmazières from the architectural firm XTU, La Cité du Vin is an architectural masterpiece standing 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 created this majestic, iconic structure, the only one of its kind in the world. Technical expertise, raising the bar, endurance and customisation were the key concepts behind the construction of La Cité du Vin.


La Cité du Vin is an exceptional building in every sense. Just take a look at some of the figures:

  • 40 companies, 20 trades
  • 300 piles 50 to 120 cm in diameter driven into hard rock to depths of up to 30 metres to serve as foundations
  • A 9000m3 concrete skeleton
  • 1000 tons of steel
  • A wooden frame made up of 574 arches and 128 spines made of laminated glued timber, each one a different shape
  • 4000 m² of tailor-made plywood panels
  • 2235 m² of glass cladding
  • Composite cladding of 2500 panels in different shapes and sizes

As a reminder, cladding is a facade insulation system made of prefabricated elements comprising insulation and a facing panel, which are then attached to the outside of the wall.

Architectural concept

‘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. 
The initial aim of the building’s architecture was genuinely to create a link between La Cité du Vin and the spaces surrounding it through perpetual movement.
Anouk Legendre and Nicolas Desmazières, the architects from XTU, designed a space shaped by symbols of identity: gnarled vine stock, wine swirling in a glass, eddies on the Garonne. Every detail of the architecture evokes wine’s soul and liquid nature: ‘seamless roundness, intangible and sensual’ (XTU Architects).


Founded in 2000, XTU architects (based in Paris) is run by Anouk Legendre and Nicolas Desmazières. He is the son of a diplomat, she trained at the Bordeaux School of Architecture, and they met on a study trip in Bavaria. A personal connection forged in Austria eventually also became a professional one. A boreal experience in Iceland, prompting Anouk to view the world as ‘constantly moving and swaying’, shaped the agency’s identity and vision.
‘Curves have replaced lines’ ever since. The strong angles and lines of a building such as the Chemistry faculty at the University Paris Diderot (completed in March 2008) disappeared in favour of rounded edges borrowing from the curves of the universe: the Jeongok Prehistory Museum, constructed 200 kilometres north of Seoul (South Korea) in April 2011, and now La Cité du Vin in Bordeaux in 2016. XTU was also selected to design the France Pavilion at the Milan Universal Exposition 2015, for which it received the architecture award.

The building


Using a 3D model quickly became a key feature for the frame and cladding, but not for the shell, foundations or joinery given the different level of complexity required in the work and companies’ varying level of skill with 3D usage.

Nevertheless, every element of the project required specific expertise and a real team spirit due to the close interactions between the different trades. BIM was therefore set up to allow the different teams to collaborate with each other as effectively as possible.
BIM technology is a process involving the creation and use of an intelligent 3D model to enable better decision making and decision communication for the project. 

The other complicated aspect was bringing together the different stakeholders and pieces of 2D/3D/4D software being used (e.g. Grasshopper, Rhinoceros, Cadwork, TEKLA, REVIT).

Production of the frame (spread across two separate sites) also required the use of this digital model. However, because no two arches within the building were the same, pieces were grouped together by family in an attempt to optimise the gluing process.
Each arch ultimately took around twenty working hours to make.


Wine is an element which by its very nature changes landscapes, and thus creates a special relationship with the environment. A destination paying tribute to wine civilisations should therefore be following a sustainable development approach. 

The building fits in perfectly with the dynamics of the Bassins à Flot eco-district. From the very beginning, architecture firm XTU aimed to reduce the building’s environmental impact to an absolute minimum. 70% of La Cité du Vin’s energy needs are therefore covered by local and green energy sources.
With a high-performance bioclimatic design, the construction’s compact shape enables it to optimise ventilation within the building.
Air inlets at low points take advantage of prevailing winds, whilst courtyards and high points evacuate heat, generating an air current which alone creates an additional 5 degrees of cooling during the summer and limits the need to use air conditioning. 
In addition, the roof is protected from the sun by a ‘ventilated shade’ which helps to control the temperature, as does the use of geothermal energy.