The new 18,000 m2 Maison de l’Économie Créative et de la Culture en Aquitaine, MÉCA, creates a frame for the celebration of contemporary art, film and performances, giving Bordeaux the gift of art-filled public space from the waterfront to the city’s new urban room. Centrally located between the River Garonne and Saint-Jean train station, MÉCA, brings together three regional arts agencies – FRAC for contemporary art, ALCA for cinema, literature and audiovisuals, and OARA for performing arts – into a loop, cementing the UNESCO-listed city as the epicenter for culture.
The building is conceived as a single loop of cultural institutions and public space by extruding the pavement of the promenade to become the ramp that leads into the urban living room, the façade with glimpses into the stage towers of OARA and the offices of ALCA, and the rooftop enclosing the sky-lit galleries of FRAC. A series of steps and ramps lead the public directly into the 1,100 m2 outdoor urban room at the core of MÉCA, creating a porous institution for visitors to roam freely between the Quai de Paludate street to the river promenade. A 7m high MÉCA sign illuminates the space with white LED lights, like a modern chandelier at the scale of the urban room. During special occasions, MÉCA’s outdoor spaces can be transformed into a stage for concerts and theatrical spectacles or an extended gallery for sculptures and other art installations. A permanent bronze sculpture depicting a half-head of Hermes by French artist Benoît Maire intersects with the entrance on the riverside, inviting visitors to reflect on the contemporary culture of the region.
Upon entering MÉCA from the ground floor, visitors arrive at the lobby where they can relax in the spiral pit or dine at the restaurant Le CREM, furnished with red furniture and cork chairs designed by BIG in reference to the city known for wine. A giant periscope by the restaurant and elevators allows visitors to see the activity in the outdoor urban room and vise-versa, creating an indoor-outdoor dialogue. On the same ground floor, those with tickets can enjoy performances in OARA’s 250-seat theatre featuring flexible seating configurations and acoustic systems optimized by an all-black checkerboard panel of concrete, wood and perforated metal. Upstairs, filmgoers can view screenings at ALCA’s red-accented 80-seat cinema or visit the two production offices and project incubation area.
FRAC occupies the upper floors with 7m high exhibition spaces, production studios for artists, storage facilities, 90-seat auditorium and café. The 850 m2 public roof terrace serves as a flexible extension to the exhibition spaces, allowing future large-scale art installations and performances to be placed outdoors amid views of the city and the Basilica of St. Michael. MÉCA’s façade is composed almost entirely of 4,800 prefabricated concrete panels interspersed with windows of various sizes to control the amount of light entering inside and to create a sense of transparency. The concrete slabs, which weigh up to 1.6 tons, are sandblasted to expose its raw qualities and to texture the surface with the local sandstone of Bordeaux. Yellow granules for brightness and warmth radiate the building in the sun and integrates MÉCA as a familiar yet new vernacular sight to the city.
“OARA, ALCA and FRAC have already arrived when the building completed – and now that MÉCA has opened, the fourth and final element is here: the city and the citizens of Bordeaux. Within this new urban room, we have already seen the arrival of the first skateboarders, the first romantic couple sharing a bottle of Bordeaux on the steps, and the first demonstration on the sloping promenade. So consider MÉCA’s urban room as a blank canvas, or rather an empty frame, for the Bordelais to fill it with their ideas, their creativity, their culture, and to make it their own.” Bjarke Ingels, Founding Partner & Creative Director, BIG.
“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. Giant windows overlooking the urban room offers views to the dance studio of OARA and on the opposite end, an inclined mirror reflects the lobby below. The visitors are almost participating in an installation, just by being there. In addition, large bleachers on either side of the building invites people to hang out and enjoy amazing views of the River Garonne and the city.” Jakob Sand, Partner, BIG.
Size in m2: 18000
Project type: Competition
Client: Région Nouvelle-Aquitaine
Collaborators: FREAKS freearchitects, Lafourcade-Rouquette Architectes, ALTO Ingénierie, Khephren Ingénierie, Hedont, dUCKS Scéno, Dr. Lüchinger+Meyer Bauingenieure, VPEAS, Ph.A Lumière, ABM Studio, Mryk & Moriceau, BIG Ideas
Location Text: Bordeaux, France
Images: copyright Laurian-Ghinitoiu, Florent Michel
Partners-in-Charge: Bjarke Ingels, Jakob Sand, Finn Nørkjær, Andreas Klok Pedersen
Project Manager: Laurent de Carnière, Marie Lancon, Gabrielle Nadeau
Team: Alexander Codda, Alicia Marie Sarah Borhardt, Annette Birthe Jensen, Åsmund Skeie, Aya Fibert, Bartosz Kobylakiewicz, Bernhard Touzet, Brigitta Gulyás, David Tao, Edouard Champelle, Espen Vik, Greta Krenciute, Greta Tafel, Hyojin Lee, Ivan Genov, Jan Magasanik, Jeffrey Mark Mikolajewski, Karol Bogdan Borkowski, Katarzyna Swiderska, Kekoa Charlot, Lorenzo Boddi, Maria Teresa Fernandez Rojo, Melissa Andres, Michael Schønemann Jensen, Nicolas Millot, Ola Hariri, Ole Dau Mortensen, Pascale Julien, Paul-Antoine Lucas, Raphael Ciriani, Santiago Palacio Villa, Se Hyeon Kim, Sebastian Liszka, Seunghan Yeum, Snorre Emanuel Nash Jørgensen, Teresa Fernández, Thiago De Almeida, Thomas Jakobsen Randbøll, Yang Du, Zoltan David Kalaszi, Tore Banke, Yehezkiel Wiliardy