Bjarke Ingels has again thrown us for a loop, this time in Bordeaux, France. Ingels’ firm BIG has revealed its latest competition-winner called the Maison de l’Économie Créative et de la Culture en Aquitaine, or, for the rest of us, MÉCA. As AN noted in April, BIG won the commission working with Paris-based FREAKS freearchitects, beating out the likes of SANAA and Toulouse-based W-Architectures, but the renderings have been kept under wraps until now. Ingels’ explained the design using his signature diagram-based narrative as an array of three visual and performing arts agencies arranged around a 120-foot-tall arch-shaped building.
The architects approached the concept of the arch as a functional, programmatic, and symbolic guide in their understanding and design of the building. The arrangement begins (see diagrams in gallery below) along a flat line connecting three cultural institutions—OARA, FRAC, and ECLA—and then twists to create an asymmetrical geometry surrounding a void at the center of the arch housing an outdoor “urban room.” This central public space transitions between the building’s interior and the public promenade weaving through the building. The archway, expressive of the building’s cultural function, also implies a connection between the building, its institutions, the waterfront, and the adjoining city of Bordeaux.
The three institutions taking residence at the MÉCA each occupy different parts of the arch. Regional performing arts center OARA and the ECLA archives will fill the vertical posts while the regional visual arts center FRAC alights above with sunlit gallery space, including a large roof terrace. The entrance to all three buildings is below the “urban room” and accessible by large ramps leading visitors first underground before ascending either vertical pillar. A large rooftop terrace is also sliced into the sloping roof.
The new center is clad in a regionally-traditional limestone with an intricately fenestrated facade adding rich texture and depth to the envelope. The $65.4 million project will be paid for with public funds and is estimated to be complete in 2015.
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