Bordeaux > place Pey Berland

Bordeaux > place Pey Berland

The history of urban squares is dominated by the fight for supremacy between empty and full spaces. Place Pey Berland is no exception to this rule. Empty space had won the battle here down the centuries, for better or for worse, and often at the expense of neighbouring buildings. Increasing traffic congestion throughout the twentieth century served to sever the links between the cathedral and its surrounding urban fabric, turning it into little more than a roundabout. Other key elements of the city’s cultural heritage situated on the square suffered a similar fate, with only a slither of pavement separating them from the passing cars. Pey Berland had reached saturation point. Each different corner had received a separate treatment, and the resulting effect was devoid of any coherence. The diagnosis was simple – Place Pey Berland was no longer a fully functioning public square and a desire to return it to pedestrian use became a key element of the city’s urban policy making. Introduction of lines A and B of the tram network, suppression of traffic lanes around the square’s north and east perimeter and speed limitation to 30 km for remaining traffic served to free up space, bringing a new sense of elegance, clarity and direction. Redesigning the empty expanse created became a major stake. A sense of unity was reinstated through uniform paving, the main lines of perspective were redefined and the introduction of signalling elements staged the cathedral, returning it to its mythical, visual supremacy of old. The square is almost totally paved with large granite slabs (1.20 m x 1.20m), laid to form lozenges and following a strict, repeating pattern. Views of the Town Hall are now unimpeded, and an esplanade unfolds before the cathedral’s north portal. To the east, the isolated trees have been removed to create an open space recapturing the spirit of the Place Saint André of old. Long granite benches and luminous strips in the paving structure the pedestrian’s appropriation of the square, making it a place of multiple possibilities, a place for gathering and exchanging, for festivities and tourism, returned to its role as the city’s symbolic beating heart. The access points to Saint Christoly car park have also been reworked, signalling their position more clearly and improving their design. They are prism-shaped and clad in translucent white glass, topped with a perforated metal roof. At night, spotlights positioned inside the access points light up the glazed walls from within, like lanterns illuminating the square.
program
urban planning for 3 plazas in the centre of Bordeaux : Pey-Berland, Rohan et Jean-Moulin
project management
atelier d’architecture King Kong, Francisco Mangado, Seet Secoba, Yon Anton-Olano, Cetab, Julie Soistier
client: Urban community of Bordeaux
location: Bordeaux (33)
surface area: 20 000 m²
Cost (VAT included): 9 700 000 €
date: completed in january 2004
images/photos: Roland Halbe, Christian Désile
awards: general public prize of architecture - urban space in Aquitaine 2004 / general public prize of architecture Ministère de la Culture 2004 / selection European Prize for Urban Public Space 2006
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