Opened in June 2019, the regional centre of Culture and Creative Economy, better known as the MECA, crystallizes all the cultural ambitions of the New Aquitaine region. Often criticized for its lack of cultural agenda given the importance of its metropolis, Bordeaux lacked a place that makes the capital of Girona a cultural reference. Located at 54 Quai de Paludate in the old slaughterhouse district, the MECA surprises with its modernism and bold lines, like the new Euratlantic district in which it is located.
An exceptional third place dedicated to contemporary art
Designed by the Danish Bjarke Ingels and his agency BIG, a true icon of contemporary architecture, the MECA immediately announces its positioning: to embody a cultural reference in a global way. The choice of architect is of crucial importance because the selected architect often brings to the project its international reputation. This is the case with Bjarke Ingels, who worked on the project for the new Two World Trade Center in New York and on a development project in Canada at the Vancouver House, to name but a few. Whether it is Frank Gehry, the architect behind the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao or the Georges Pompidou Centre in Paris designed by Renzo PIano and Richard Rogers, the architecture of a contemporary art museum must be a unique creation. Designed as an asymmetrical arch in the shape of an M, its imposing structure with 12,000 m2, 12 meters long and 37 meters high, seems alive due to the play of ramps and bleachers that give the impression of movement. It is the packaging of the artistic and creative world that will await visitors. The architecture of the place must embody a particular audacity, an ambitious vision of contemporary culture. The project is also the result of a collaborative design project between major local construction players such as GTM Aquitaine Building and VINCI Construction France.
In parallel to its architecture, the innovation produced by this place is mainly the result of the creative structures it welcomes within it. The MECA is thus a combination of ALCA, FRAC and OARA. ALCA designates the Agency, Book, Cinema and Audiovisual in New Aquitaine. By structuring professionals in the sector of the 12 Neo-Aquitaine departments, it guarantees, in support of creation and production, access to reading and cinema through artistic and cultural education, the enhancement of heritage, public reading, the strengthening of cultural rights, cultural planning of the territory. FRAC Aquitaine is the Regional Contemporary Art Fund, its concept is based on the belief in cultural nomadism. With this in mind, work and exhibition spaces are installed on the upper deck of the MECA. Finally, the Artistic Office of the New Aquitaine Region, known as OARA, also finds its place in this new cultural ensemble. The OARA presents a more local anchor for contemporary creation. The MECA offers a creative studio as well as spaces dedicated to artists to encourage creative exchanges.
An economic and cultural ecosystem to be promoted
The opening of the MECA questions the direction of the region’s cultural policy. Indeed, cultural expenditure in New Aquitaine is mainly at the communal level at 45% with 653.5 million euros in 2015 or 113 euros per capita. Faced with this observation, the prospects for allocating this amount are multiple.
One of the avenues envisaged calls for companies in the region to have a role to play in cultural and creative development, particularly in terms of patronage. Indeed, culture is the second most important sector in the use of tax reduction. Corporate sponsors can therefore be an important lever of the new cultural policy of the New Aquitaine region. While corporate sponsorship is mainly set up by mid-sized and large enterprises, the increasing involvement of SMEs in culture is an issue of the territory’s economic development. According to a study by Admical 2016, the New Aquitaine region is identified as a “fertile pool of patronage.” In fact, nearly a quarter of companies engaged in sponsorship in 2015 in this region. To this end, the innovation division of FRAC Nouvelle-Aquitaine, now located within the MECA, aims to link the know-how and skills of neo-Aquitaine companies and, above all, to foster a rapprochement between the artistic and industrial world, which are often very far away. To this end, FRAC’s innovation and creation division had fostered a meeting between the artist Alice Raymond and a Bordeaux-based company T2i specializing in industrial sheet metal and engineering.
The opening of the MECA in Bordeaux foreshadows the advent of a new neo-Aquitaine cultural ambition, once too timid. Thought and intended as a cultural embassy open to the outside world, the MECA must appear as a gateway for regional actors, especially businesses, to new collaborations.
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