Bjarke Ingels Group and FREAKS freearchitects have completed a new cultural center for Bordeaux, France that frames the UNESCO-listed city’s love for contemporary art, film, performances and the waterfront. Dubbed MÉCA (Maison de l’Économie Créative et de la Culture en Aquitaine), the art-filled public space takes the shape of an angular loop that houses three regional arts agencies: FRAC for contemporary art; ALCA for cinema, literature and audiovisuals; and OARA for performing arts. By leaving a void in the center of the building, the architects successfully preserved views of and public passage to the waterfront, while creating a shaded “urban living room” accessible to all.

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Spanning an area of 18,000 square meters, MÉCA is centrally located between the River Garonne and Saint-Jean train station. The design knits together the cultural institutions it houses with public space with the creation of a porous building accessed via a series of steps and ramps that extends from the pavement of the existing river promenade to the 1,100-square-meter outdoor urban room at the heart of MÉCA and beyond to Quai de Paludate street. MÉCA’s outdoor spaces can also be transformed into a stage for concerts and performances or an extended gallery for sculptures and other art installations.

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The contemporary building is clad in a facade of 4,800 prefabricated concrete panels punctuated with windows of various sizes. The concrete panels are sandblasted and textured with locally sourced sandstone. Above the outdoor room hangs a 7-meter-tall MÉCA sign that the architects liken to a “modern chandelier” fitted with white LEDs. A permanent bronze sculpture depicting a half-head of Hermes by French artist Benoît Maire marks the riverside entrance.

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Inside MÉCA, visitors can dine at the restaurant Le CREM, which is dressed with wine-inspired red and cork furnishings designed by BIG, and enjoy performances in OARA’s 250-seat theater. ALCA’s red-accented 80-seat cinema, production offices and project incubation area are located directly upstairs while the upper floors are occupied by FRAC’s exhibition space, production studios, storage facilities, 90-seat auditorium and cafe. An 850-square-meter public terrace tops the roof.


Photography by Laurian Ghinitoiu via BIG

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