A port city, situated in South-western France, Bordeaux is classified as a ‘City of Art and History’. The historic part of the city is a part of the UNESCO world Heritage city list and has been described as “an outstanding urban and architectural ensemble” of the 18th Century. Synonymous with its intoxicating wine production and selection, the city offers a glimpse into the history of the city by housing the highest number of preserved historic structures in France after Paris. Over time, the city has evolved with its history with many examples of contemporary architecture by renowned architects transforming the city landscape, becoming a sought after place to visit for artists, historians and architects.

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1. Pont de Pierre

The city of Bordeaux is situated on the river Garonne, which divides the city in two parts namely Victor Hugo Cours on the left and Avenue Thiers on the right. Pont de Pierre whose literal translation in English is ‘Stone Bridge’ connects both the banks and provides breath-taking views of the city with the river in the foreground. 

Constructed in 1822, under Napoleon 1 the bridge is 487m long and has 17 arches (to signify a letter each in Napoleon Bonaparte’s name). Made in brick and stone it is only accessible to pedestrians, cyclists and emergency vehicles after it was preserved. Designed by architect Claude Deschamps, this oldest bridge of Bordeaux is an architectural achievement of its time given the challenges faced due to the tidal range and the moving seabed. 

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2. Palais Gallien

Built in the 3rd century, dating back to the Roman Empire, the original amphitheatre is a historic structure of which only its remains survive today. The structure has seen the history of Bordeaux pass through it being burnt down during major raids, serving as a refuge for prostitutes and mobsters and then being abandoned, a dumping ground for sludge in 1793 etc. During the French revolution it became a public quarry and parts of it were sold. The remaining walls today are deemed to be of historical importance. 

Though only remains of the structure can be seen today with a large part of the land taken over by residences, the structure provides for a place to reminisce the rich history of Bordeaux and its evolution along with its rich Roman architectural style.

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3. Place de la Bourse

Designed by architect Ange-Jacques Gabriel in 1739, Place de la Bourse is a public square in Bordeaux, built along the Garonne river that is within the historic part of the city and recognized by the UNESCO world Heritage list. It was an important centre for trade and commerce and today houses the Chamber of Commerce and Industry showcasing various architecture styles. 

Located in front of the square is Miroir d’eau (Water Mirror) which is the world’s largest reflecting pool and was built in 2006. Designed by artist Michel Corajoud, the pool has a 2cm thick layer of water which reflects the 18th century facades of the Place de la Bourse. It has become a symbol of the city today where many people are seen enjoying the grandiose views in the water and playing around in summers with mist created every 15 minutes.

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4. Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux

Inaugurated in 1780, Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux is an opera house designed by architect Victor Louis with gardens of Palais Royal and galleries in the vicinity. The structure features a number of neoclassical elements with a vestibule, Corinthian columns as part of its façade and a monumental staircase which served as an inspiration for Paris Opera by Charles Garnier as well.

The design of the structure was conceived as a “Temple of the Arts and Light” with a portico of Corinthian columns and entablature with 12 statues along with fresco paintings on the ceiling. It is still functional today as a performance space where a number of theatre and ballet acts take place.

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5. Bordeaux Cathedral

Deemed as a UNESCO world Heritage site and a national monument of France, Bordeaux Cathedral is a Roman catholic church built in the 14th Century primarily in Gothic and Romanesque architectural styles. This largest religious structure of Bordeaux, is 124 metres long and 23 metres high. The Cathedral was first built in the 11th Century in the Romanesque style of which only the walls remain today, after which the Cathedral was rebuilt in Gothic architectural style between the 12th and 16th Centuries.

Located in close vicinity to the Bordeaux Town Hall the structure has even served as a royal wedding hall! One can climb up to the top of the cathedral as well and get breath-taking views of the city.

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6. MÉCA Cultural Center

One of the most ground-breaking and recent projects built in 2019  by  Bjarke Ingels Group, MÉCA Cultural Center is a public hub situated in between the River Garonne and the city edge. The structure is envisaged as a continuous loop with cultural institutions and public spaces fitted in together. The pavement of the river promenade is extruded to create a ramp which allows the visitors to enter the structure which celebrates art, culture, films, performances and architecture. The porous structure also allows for the promenade itself to become an outdoor performance space for art installations, concerts and theatrical performance.

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7. La Cité du Vin

La Cité du Vin or the City of Wine designed by XTU Architects in 2016, is an exhibition space along with housing various other functions such as movie screenings and seminars related to wine. The structure is iconic for making a bold architectural statement, designed using irregular curves and shapes which resonate with the prevalent wine culture of Bordeaux. The facade of the structure consists of silk-screen printed glass panels and perforated, lacquered aluminium panels. 

Situated next to the river Garonne, it resonates and connects with it by the means of the various reflections that change at different times of the day which is also closely related with the changing nature of wine.

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8. Carré Lumière 

Designed by LAN Architecture in 2015, Carré Lumière is a mixed-use urban project with primary function of housing (apartments) along with Offices and Shops. The project aims to exemplify the concept of community housing and flexibility for spaces to expand and be used for other purposes. Rooms too can be added within the existing framework in case more space is required by the inhabitants. The project also utilizes a hybrid climatic model using the concept of inter seasonal architecture with an option to use individual outdoor spaces as greenhouses and windbreaks. 

The project has been described as a “form in movement” being semi furnished to provide more adaptability and flexibility.

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9. Matmut Atlantique Stadium

Designed by Herzog & de Meuron in 2015, Matmut Atlantique Stadium aims to blur the boundaries between the inside and the outside by a fusion of stairs, columns and an elevated plinth that invites people inside being seemingly open and light. To homogenize the structure in terms of materiality and scale within the existing context the structure is made up as a pure form. It further attempts to integrate itself in the existing landscape where the columns of the structure imitate the paradigms of trees and paths of the surrounding landscapes. The stadium has a capacity of 42,000 visitors.

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10. Maison Bordeaux 

Designed by OMA in 1998, Maison Bordeaux is a house designed for a wheelchair enabled person; the structure sits atop a hill, overlooking the city of Bordeaux. The client described the house he wanted as follows:

“Contrary to what you would expect. I want a complex house because the house will define my world.”

The house was designed as a simple structure with fairly complex spatial functioning in the form of three entities stacked up that fluctuate between transparent and opaque. The lowest level which is carved into the hill houses the most intimidating family activities whereas the middle level is the most occupied throughout the day with a living room which is partially outdoors and provides views to the city. To provide mobility for the disabled client, an entire room is designed to be movable throughout the various spaces of the house as it traverses vertically and horizontally.

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Rajshri Jain is a final year architecture student and you will usually find her devouring books and poetry in cafes over warm cups of coffees and conversations. She is always wondering and wandering about spaces, places and cities and its relation with memories, cultures, history and people.

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