While in Bordeaux, I scoured the city in search of brutalist architecture.
If the old “Caisse d’épargne” in the Mériadeck district was able to satisfy my hunger for concrete, I went in search of other Brutalist-inspired buildings that could evoke the local pastry specialty, the famous “Cannelé de Bordeaux”…
The Mériadeck district, concrete in all its forms
Meriadeck is a retro-futuristic neighborhood built on the slab of Bordeaux in the 1960’s by wiping out a former working-class neighborhood that had become insalubrious.
It is part of the major urban renewal programs carried out after the Second World War in France that embraced the concept of urban planning on raised concrete slabs from the 1950s, such as the La Défense district in Paris.
For a complete and exhaustive information on the Mériadeck district, I recommend this French website.
Face-to-face precast concrete panels in 1970s architecture.
The brutalist showpiece
Much maligned, this sort of “pièce montée” that is the former savings bank is quite unique and does not leave the architectural photographer indifferent.
The building located at the entrance of Meriadeck is inserted at street level and is not completely inscribed in the urban project on the slab but it constitutes for the district a marker with a purely brutalist architecture.
A real architectural UFO, the former “Caisse d’épargne” of the architects Edmond Lay, Pierre Layré-Cassou and Pierre Dugravier was built in 1977 and was classified as a historical monument in 2014, thus consecrating the most outstanding Brutalist construction in Bordeaux.
In addition to its fluted concrete column, its conical second floor strongly reminds me of a “Cannelé de Bordeaux” which would have been crushed… a first significant element for my investigation!
Striations and strata on slabs
Walking along the deserted “Front du Médoc” terrace in Mériadeck, I quickly came across this first massive building with its grooved concrete façade featuring long strips of glass with metallic blue reflections that wouldn’t look out of place in a science fiction movie..
This technical building built in 1975, the Central Téléphonique de Mériadeck, is the work of the Parisian architect Jean Rabinel.
A little further on, on the same terrace, the very photo-graphic horizontal stripes that cut the floors of this building attract my camera.
The residential building, “Le Centre”, was designed by the Bordeaux architect Francisque Perrier.
Brutalism in other districts of Bordeaux
With its numerous small stone houses and its rather traditional style, the city of Bordeaux is not known for its brutalist architecture even if I could meet in other districts some other specimens.
The old sorting center in Armagnac
An alternation of fluted concrete bands for this former post office sorting center undergoing asbestos removal and rehabilitation in the Armagnac district.
The façade of this building will be preserved and the interior will be transformed into a hotel restaurant. The whole will be topped by a new construction.
The Bordeaux Conservatory
On the banks of the Garonne, the “Conservatoire de Bordeaux” proudly displays its brutalist architecture with its central cylinder composed of slightly spaced prefabricated concrete panels creating a fluted effect.
The Jacques Thibaudon Conservatory was designed by architects Francisque Perrier and Raymond Mothe in the 1970s.
The Bacalan silos
Shaped like cannelloni… These old concrete silos in the Bassins à flot district were rehabilitated in 2021.
The architects Benjamin Colboc and Arnaud Sachet have transformed, for the hotel ***** Renaissance of the Marriott Group, 2 of the 8 former silos into a reception area while the 6 others have become an art gallery.
Bordeaux, king of parking
In the city of Bordeaux, although on-street parking has been generalized for a long time, it seems that a frenzy of parking construction has taken hold of the city in recent years.
I took the opportunity of my visit to make several photographic reports on brand new Bordeaux parking lots, for a future article dedicated to parking lots.
Privileged playgrounds for an architectural photographer, aerial parking lots provide good views of cities, while giving us a dose of raw concrete.
By designing the interior of this circular parking lot in a brutalist style, the architects Lobjoy & Bouvier & Boisseau offer the photographer stalking the Cannelé of Bordeaux, the possibility of practicing the art of photographing in a tube.
A concentric photographic composition inside the cannula constituted by the access ramp to the parking lot of the TGV station in Bordeaux, in the Belcier district.
A brutalist cannelé for Bordeaux…
As a dessert to this article, I decided to immodestly contribute to the history of brutalist architecture by imagining an iconic building: the “Kanelé” in Bordeaux.
The architecture of an apocalyptic future
It is an almost monolithic concrete construction in the shape of the Canelé Bordelais.
Being able to resist to a nuclear war, to a few meteorites as well as to global warming, this huge reinforced concrete skylight is placed directly over the Bordeaux wine city…
On the sandy soil of the Garonne river bank, the building is expected to sink about 50 cm per year for the first ten years, which is why the main entrance will be raised 5 meters off the ground during its construction.
A flying saucer in the basin opposite the Kanelé of Bordeaux.
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