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.

people walking or cycling past large white building

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.

large head sculpture on steps
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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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concrete room with gray sofas
people walking outside large white building

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.

+ BIG

Photography by Laurian Ghinitoiu via BIG

large white building lit up at night