Bordeaux puts wine at heart of revival strategy
Friday 27 May 2011
The French "wine capital" of Bordeaux hopes a dramatic new cultural centre dedicated to its best known export can set the seal on this once decaying port's ambitious renewal programme.
The voluptuously rounded structure, dominated by glass and wood, will evoke gigantic drops of wine as they are swirled in a glass and transform the skyline of the historic city from its formerly shabby quayside site.
"It's what we've been waiting for," said Sophie Gaillard, from the Bordeaux tourist office, presenting the blueprints of the 55-million-euro ($78 million) project, due to open in 2014.
Explaining an ambitious design that mimics both wine drops and the swirling Garonne river below, lead architect Anouk Legendre said: "It will be seen from all over the city so it's round, opulent from all sides."
Just the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, south of Bordeaux over the border in Spain's Basque Country, transformed the image of one rundown Atlantic port, hopes are high that the wine centre will become a municipal icon.
Both the city and struggling winegrowers should benefit from a project that mayor Alain Juppe's office hopes will generate 750 new jobs, 40 million euros in annual revenue and 400,000 visitors a year.
At the same time, he hopes it will put an end to his city's reputation as a staid and traditional bourgeois provincial town and boost his drive to turn it into a European commercial and cultural capital.
The plans are by Parisian architects X-Tu and London design agency Casson Mann, who aim to transcend Bordeaux in time, geography and terroir - tracing the history of wine through ancient civilisations and far-flung regions.
"Most of the work we do is with existing buildings, this is a fantastic opportunity to work with an architect to make the installation and the buildings a seamless experience," said Roger Mann, co-director of Casson Mann.
"It will be a multi-sensory journey," added co-director Dinah Casson.
Visitors will flow in a route that curves like the Garonne through themed modules, beginning in the subterranean "archaeological level" and winding to an observation level with a panoramic view of the city.
It's seen as fitting that the river has influenced the design, not only because of the Garonn's historical role in the wine trade, but because the waterfront is integral to the urban revitalisation begun by Juppe in 1995.
"The city had lost its role as the locomotive for the region, and it no longer had the political weight to compete with other French or European cities," said Michel Duchene, city council deputy for urban strategy.
"Bordeaux was often referred to as a sleeping beauty."
Dilapidated warehouses and sleazy nightspots lined historic quays. Traffic clogged the streets and 18th century stone facades were black with pollution.
Businesses and the middle class fled the city centre for the unsightly suburban sprawl leaching into the surrounding vineyards, threatening the rural landscape and diluting the city's vitality and purpose.
Juppe undertook a vast public works project to "re-centre" the city around both banks of the Garonne.
Thirteen years and two billion euros later, Bordeaux has undergone a soft revolution, "pleasant and friendly, but rather radical," said Duchene.
The 4.5-kilometre (2.8-mile) quay has become a park with pedestrian and cycle paths, reflecting pool, skate park, sports facilities, shops, trendy restaurants, a farmer's market, gardens and landing dock for cruise ships.
Scrubbed facades give the limestone buildings an elegant, golden hue. A tramway, fewer cars, bike sharing, pedestrian-only zones and redesigned plazas have created a greener, cleaner city.
An EU study found that Bordeaux's bike traffic increased from two to nine percent in the last two years.
"That's the highest increase of any European city," said Duchene.
City gardeners are busy planting a 90-hectare (222-acre) park along the Bastide riverfront opposite the historical quays.
A modern drawbridge whose middle raises like an elevator, currently under construction, will link the new park to the city, just steps from the future site of the wine culture centre.
The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations
Iceland volcano: Travel agency has 'Volcano hotline' for dare-devil tourists who want to visit Bardarbunga if it erupts
Luton airport voted worst in Britain for second time running
Contactless payment donkey rides are a thing now
August Bank Holiday 2014: Five ways to make the most of it
The 10 Best lightweight luggage
- 1 Jeremy Clarkson 'sees no problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC
- 3 London restaurant 34 creates champagne glass modelled on Kate Moss’ left breast
- 4 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Bin bag full of cats' heads discovered near Manchester's Curry Mile
Disgusting, frustrating, but intriguing: how the country really feels about its politicians
£6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...
£17K OTE £30K: Charter Selection: Highly successful and innovative specialist...
£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Working with an exciting ...
£23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...