MAKING WAVES continued from page 52
The folds in the facade (above) are carried into the
interiors, both in the rooms’ canted walls (right) and in
custom elements like the washbasin (bottom right).
Sloped ceilings and unexpected graphics also echo the
architects’ playful use of Corian.
This is appropriate, since Bordeaux is celebrated for its
historic architecture—about 40 percent of the city was
declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007—yet in
recent years it has executed substantive urban changes,
redeveloping the Garonne’s once industrial left bank, introducing an innovative tram system, and making major thoroughfares more friendly to pedestrians. The hotel’s location on the
border of the Bacalan district—a rundown industrial area set to
undergo major transformations as part of Mayor Alain Juppé’s
redevelopment plan for the city—incorporates both old and new.
It invited a design, says Paul Marion, a principal of King Kong, that
“inserted itself within the area’s heritage but at the same time was
The architects anchored the structure on its corner lot by aligning
the windows with those of its neighbors, and tilting back the facades
along a line that begins at the cornice of the building adjacent to
the northern elevation, then slopes downward, turns the corner, and
terminates at the cornice of the shorter structure on the hotel’s eastern side. The Corian heightens the effectiveness of both gestures:
its monolithic quality emphasizes the window depth, which mirrors
that of its stone elders, while the material’s softness and color make
the fold above the line more subtle (and less of a design gambit).
At the same time, the Corian drives home the structure’s modernity,
erasing the rectilinear patterns of traditional stone-and-mortar construction. And by converting the hotel into an engimatic abstraction
that has been likened to a ship or a seeko’o—Inuit for “iceberg”—the
architects have rejected not only the prevailing neighborhood style
but also the more orthodox idea of copying it, as others working on
Bordeaux’s waterfront have done.
Though de Knyff observes that some conservative citizens have
wondered how Bordeaux “could have let this happen.” The city hall,
which authorizes construction, embraced the plan after rejecting
more conventionally contextual schemes developed by the owners’
original architects. “The city wanted to bring energy to this area
that’s being developed,” Marion explains. “This creates a link to the
past and is an expression of what we do today.” —Marc Kristal T#
Some conservative citizens
have wondered how Bordeaux
“could have let this happen.”