New Cultural Center on the Riverfront of Bordeaux / by BIG

Team BIG+FREAKS freearchitects, dUCKS sceno, Khephren Ingenierie, VPEAS, ALTO Ingenierie, Vincent Hedont, PBNL, Mryk & Moriceau, Ph.A wins the competition to design a new 12 000 m2 cultural center on the riverfront of Bordeaux, merging three cultural institutions into one single building.

The new Maison de l’economie Creative et de la Culture en Aquitaine, MECA, located on the historical riverfront of Bordeaux will house three regional visual and performing arts agencies FRAC, the ECLA and the OARA in one single institution. The Regional Council of Bordeaux selected the winning team among proposals from SANAA, the Toulouse-based firm W-Architectures and Bordeaux-based FLINT.

BIG’s proposal arranges the new center for contemporary art, the performing arts institution and the center for literature and movies around a public space open towards the city of Bordeaux and the Garonne River. The building is conceived as a single loop of public space and cultural institutions as the pavement of the promenade rises to form the roof of the main lobbies, ascends vertically along the stage tower of OARA, bridges across the promenade with the sky lit galleries of the FRAC and returns vertically to the ground at the archives of the ECLA in order to reunite with the waterfront promenade.

“When a region or a city invests millions in a major new cultural institution – it often ends up benefiting only the informed few that already have an interest in the arts. Not only does the MECA spill its activities into the public realm and the urban room, but the public is also invited to walk around, through, above and below the new cultural gateway. By inviting the art into the city and the city into the arts, the MECA will provide opportunities for new hybrids of cultural and social life beyond the specific definitions of its constituent parts.” Bjarke Ingels, Founding Partner, BIG.

The urban room allows everyday life of Bordeaux to flow through its generous frame along the promenade, injecting the art into the city and the city life into the building. The multiple ramps and stairs of the building create an institution that is publicly accessible and welcoming on the inside as well as the outside. The urban room and the informal seating of the stairs will make the MECA a lively place and a natural extension of the life along the Quai de Paludate street and the new promenade. During festivals or other special occasions in the city, the outside of the MECA can be transformed into a stage for outdoor concerts, theatrical spectacles or art installations.

“The urban room is at once a frame for the artwork, a stage for the performances, a screening room for the media collections and most perhaps most importantly an open room for the urban life of Bordeaux to invade and engage with the arts.”, Andreas Klok Pedersen, Partner-in-Charge, BIG.

Tailored to accommodate the proportions of the performance spaces, the backstage requirements, the archives and the art galleries, the building is tailored to the needs and desires of its individual tenants while fused to form a single urban frame. The building and promenade is clad in the limestone which constitutes the majority of Bordeaux’s architecture. As if carved from the same material as the city itself – the stone is promenade and facade, stair and terrace, roof and ceiling all together.

“The three regional entities composing the program are idiomatic to the French public way of supporting and promoting culture all over the territory. Working on the MECA building in Bordeaux is a great occasion to cross views and balance between international references and local issues.” Guillaume Aubry, Cyril Gauthier & Yves Pasquet, Founding Partners, FREAKS freearchitects

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