The city of Bordeaux unveils a landmark attraction with a permanent exhibition dedicated to the art, culture, and commerce of wine
Environmental and exhibition design practice Casson Manndelivers an immersive visitor experience that celebrates the story of wine across 22 themed installations and exhibits.
Appointed on winning an international competition in 2011, with a budget over €12 million, Casson Mann have created a unique sensory experience that will welcome 450,000 visitors annually, to Parisian architect X-TU’s eye-catching building.
Responsible for conceptualising and art directing all elements of the permanent visitor experience, including audio-visual and media elements, Casson Mann’s ambitious scenographic vision and interior concept is sympathetic to the form, materials and spirit of an innovative architectural concept that references the liquid turbulence of poured wine. Through a series of spectacular, innovative and playful displays, the centre celebrates the links between wine, culture, history and society, so significant to this area of France, and which are shared by wine-producing nations across the globe.
Structured into themes, the tour introduces the visitor to the rich symbolic and cultural capital of wine, and illustrates the ways in which its history, geography, geology, oenology, arts and commerce have shaped the world’s cultures and landscapes throughout history, from 7000BC to the present day.
Spread across a floor space of more than 3,000 m2, 22 different large-scale exhibits feature interactive experiences that stimulate the senses – sight, sound, touch, and smell. They range from spectacular helicopter fly-overs of the world’s most stunning vineyards where visitors can literally smell the vines on a perfect spring day, intimate galleries in which visitors can examine the detail of historical documents and artefacts close up, to innovative displays that deconstruct wine making process and invite visitors to delve into the colour, taste, feel and aroma notes of different wines. Says Roger Mann, “Our vision was to create a richly textured experience in which visitors can be inspired by wine in all its wonderful complexity, and our aim has been to play with display design and technology to create variety and interest yet remain relevant to the subject. This exhibition is completely audiovisual and multimedia, with sensory elements to surprise, delight, intrigue and educate visitors about the drama, art and craft that surrounds wine”.
A truly international experience, visitors will be guided through the various installations with the help of an innovative personalised headset that dynamically translates the audio content into one of 8 languages. Unique in its off ear design, the headset simultaneously translates while enabling the visitor to remain connected to the soundscape and people around them.
La Cité du Vin is a cultural facility dedicated to wine as a universal living cultural heritage. It is operated by the Fondation pour la culture et les civilisations du vin. 450,000 visitors are expectedeach year to this site which offers an immersive, sensory permanent tour, ambitious temporary exhibitions, a cultural programme of events in the auditorium, workshops, a Belvedere set 35 metres above ground, as well as restaurants, shops and wine bars. La Citédu Vin is also a one-of-a-kind business venue that can host conferences and other corporate events. Meetings, seminars, workshops or cocktail receptions can be organized in the site’s private modular spaces. La Cité du Vin will open to the public on 1st June 2016. Individuals and companies can support the cultural programme of La Cité du Vin by joining the Cercledes Amis and the Cercle des EntreprisesMécènes.
Architectural concept ‘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.
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 XTU, 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 tour, 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.