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La Cité du Vin building
‘This building does not resemble any recognisable shape because it is an evocation of the soul of wine between the river and the city.’
A strong architectural statement, La Cité du Vin stands out with its bold curves and shape. An iconic building, this golden frame hosts a Cité within the city, a living space with experiences to discover.
The initial aim of the building’s architecture was genuinely to create a link between La Cité du Vin and the spaces surrounding it through perpetual movement.
Anouk Legendre and Nicolas Desmazières, the architects from XTU, designed a space shaped by symbols of identity: gnarled vine stock, wine swirling in a glass, eddies on the Garonne. Every detail of the architecture evokes wine’s soul and liquid nature: ‘seamless roundness, intangible and sensual’ (XTU Architects).
This roundness transcribed in the building’s exterior can also be felt in its indoor spaces, materials and scale. La Cité du Vin dazzles with a golden shimmer reminiscent of the light stone found on Bordeaux facades. Its own facade is made up of silk-screen printed glass panels and perforated, iridescent, lacquered aluminium panels.
Changing with the sunshine or the time of day, the building dialogues with the river through its reflections: there are very close parallels with a wine’s constantly changing appearance. This very distinctive shape causes you to look at the river running past from a different perspective.
Gnarled vine stock, wine swirling in a glass, eddies on the Garonne. Every detail of the architecture evokes wine’s soul and liquid nature.
The building’s two entrances on either side create an impression of movement, ebb and flow between inside and outside. One entrance faces the city and the other faces the river. Higher up, the viewing tower enables visitors to discover the illuminated city and the surrounding land, almost like a watchtower.
In the eyes of Anouk Legendre, the main tour itself follows these flows: wine, the river, the flow of visitors. You pass through the building like a river, with visitors becoming voyagers flowing around the central staircase, perpetuating this impression of movement.
This means that visitors are constantly moving as they experience a virtuous circle of discovery. Each person discovers a new world in a fluid, rotating motion leading to an unusual, limitless destination, like a journey through the meanderings of a cultural landscape which feeds the imagination.
The initial aim was for the building programme to develop in line with the scenography, making the architecture a voyage in itself.
Downstairs is therefore a dark world, like a cellar, with the roots of the vines. The ground floor is raw as an immersion stage diving into the project, a crossing point. The mirror reflections are disorienting and encourage visitors to move upwards towards the light. They feel this light on the courtyard then follow it through the structure until it finally explodes. There is no fixed route to follow, just worlds to discover.
The aim of the experience is genuinely to question rather than let alone. Sometimes the architecture steps back, in other places it reappears.
The wooded arch of the Permanent exhibition, the strongest area of La Cité du Vin, is like a varied sky. The sky is everything in winemaking, determining the harvest. This wooden sky rises, undulates and tightens. Once again, this is all about movement.
The wooden structure is reminiscent of a timber frame, of boats, of wine on its travels. It is an immersive break with reality, a world of roundness, fluidity and elevation approximating the wine experience. Visitors are in a discovery mind-set initiated by the architecture, which creates the right conditions for them to discover and complete this immersive, initiatory journey.
An environmentally responsible approach
Wine is an element which by its very nature changes landscapes, and thus creates a special relationship with the environment. A destination paying tribute to wine civilisations should therefore be following a sustainable development approach.
The building fits in perfectly with the dynamics of the Bassins à Flot eco-district. From the very beginning, architecture firm XTU aimed to reduce the building’s environmental impact to an absolute minimum. 70% of La Cité du Vin’s energy needs are therefore covered by local and green energy sources.
With a high-performance bioclimatic design, the construction’s compact shape enables it to optimise ventilation within the building.
Air inlets at low points take advantage of prevailing winds, whilst courtyards and high points evacuate heat, generating an air current which alone creates an additional 5 degrees of cooling during the summer and limits the need to use air conditioning.
In addition, the roof is protected from the sun by a ‘ventilated shade’ which helps to control the temperature, as does the use of geothermal energy.
XTU architects firm
Founded in 2000, XTU architects (based in Paris) is run by Anouk Legendre and Nicolas Desmazières. He is the son of a diplomat, she trained at the Bordeaux School of Architecture, and they met on a study trip in Bavaria. A personal connection forged in Austria eventually also became a professional one. A boreal experience in Iceland, prompting Anouk to view the world as ‘constantly moving and swaying’, shaped the agency’s identity and vision.
‘Curves have replaced lines’ ever since. The strong angles and lines of a building such as the Chemistry faculty at the University Paris Diderot (completed in March 2008) disappeared in favour of rounded edges borrowing from the curves of the universe: the Jeongok Prehistory Museum, constructed 200 kilometres north of Seoul (South Korea) in April 2011, and now La Cité du Vin in Bordeaux in 2016. XTU was also selected to design the France Pavilion at the Milan Universal Exposition 2015, for which it received the architecture award.