In search of brutalist architecture and fluted concrete in Bordeaux

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 “Canelé de Bordeaux”

The Meriadeck district, concrete in all its forms

Meriadeck is the “post-apocalyptic” concrete district of Bordeaux.
It was built in the 1960’s, wiping out a former working-class neighborhood that had become unhealthy.

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 or the Part-Dieu district in Lyon.

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

The old bank style is quite unique and does not leave an architectural photographer indifferent.

The building located at the entrance of Mériadeck does not respect the architectural principles imposed in the global urban project, but it constitutes for the district a flagship of a purely brutalist architecture.

Brutalist architecture of the former "Caisse d'épargne" in the Mériadeck district of Bordeaux, France

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 became in 2014 the brutalist building of Bordeaux classified as a historical monument.

With a well-fluted concrete column and its first conical floor that could be like, with a little imagination, to a “Canelé bordelais” … it’s a first significant element for my investigation.

Strations 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, which really transported me into a sci-fi world.

Striated concrete building in the Meriadeck district of Bordeaux

It is a technical building built in 1975: the telephone exchange of Mériadeck which is the work of a Parisian architect, Jean Rabinel.

Quite close, on the same terrace, the very photo-graphic horizontal lines that separate the floors of this building attract my camera.

The residence Le Center and its striated floors

The residential building, “Le Center”, was designed by the Bordeaux architect Francisque Perrier.

Brutalism in other districts of Bordeaux

With its numerous small stone houses and its traditionalist style, the city of Bordeaux has never been known for its brutalist architecture, even if I could meet some rare assimilable specimens.

The old sorting center in Armagnac

Brutalist sorting center in the Armagnac district of Bordeaux, France

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 of slightly concrete spaced prefabricated panels creating a fluted effect.

Bordeaux Conservatory Jacques Thibaud

The Jacques Thibaudon Conservatory designed by architects Francisque Perrier and Raymond Mothe in the 1970s.

The Bacalan silos

Shaped like cannelloni… these old concrete silos were rehabilitated in 2021.

The concrete cannelloni of the hotel ***** Renaissance in Bordeaux

The architects Benjamin Colboc and Arnaud Sachet have transformed, for the hotel ***** Renaissance of the Marriott Group2 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.

Playgrounds for any architectural photographer, parking lots offer a lot of raw concrete but also good views easily accessible on the cities.

Crowned concrete

I took advantage of my visit to make photographic reports in several brand new parking lots in Bordeaux.

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.

Concrete architecture inside the parking ramp

In the 21st century, architects Lobjoy & Bouvier & Boisseau delight photographers by designing a parking garage interior in a brutalist style.

Finally, I decided to immodestly contribute to the history of brutalist architecture by imagining an iconic building for Bordeaux: the “Kanelé”.

The architecture of an apocalyptic future

It is an almost monolithic concrete construction in the shape of the Canelé Bordelais.

Resistant to meteorites, nuclear war and 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.

The Kanele, brutalist architectural UFO in Bordeaux, France

A flying saucer in the Bordeaux dock: the Kanelé is already attracting aliens!


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