Nantes is an architectural melting pot. New bold building projects sit alongside historic landmarks and ancient facades. Here are our top 10 buildings from both these angles that simply shouldn’t be missed.
French architect Antonini Darmon is the man behind these bold social housing blocks, entitled 30 Social Housing Units. These mid-rise buildings rest upon timber-strutted plinths that contain the community spaces. Located on the Île de Nantes, these stark white, striking buildings can easily be seen when visiting Machine Island and look quite at home in Nantes’ ever-changing skyline.
Initiated by the Coupechoux design group, Manny is an incredible building of metal mesh, meant to illustrate two essential components of Nantes society: creativity and eco-responsibility. The light veil of metal used to drape around the building really looks striking any time of day. From its opening in 2009, the building plays house to various architecture and creative businesses. The two staircases snaking up from the lobby are pretty impressive, too.
La Tour Lu
Lu is a well-known biscuit brand in France and La Tour Lu—now an exciting arts space in Nantes—was one of its first factories. The restored art deco tower (there used to be a pair, but sadly the second didn’t survive WWII) can be seen from various points around the city. In particular, note the eagles that symbolize prestige and an angel with a trumpet in his hand.
In the creative quarter in Nantes, Building B is an energy efficient exhibition space constructed from local trees. Architectural firm Barre-Lambot was behind the design and it serves as an information center on wood and regional businesses.
La Fabrique is a hub for contemporary music and digital arts in the city. Constructed by the City of Nantes as part of its massive cultural and arts initiative, it is made up of two buildings, both housing studio spaces, broadcast rooms, and so on. The bar space of Trempolino is a trendy spot to have a drink and there is always a full calendar of events and performances at both venues.
One of Nantes’ most iconic landmarks, the Cathédrale Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Paul, is as striking on the inside as it is externally, thanks in part to the colorful stained-glass windows (pictured below). Taking over 450 years to complete, the cathedral is a fine example of Gothic architecture and has been listed as a French historical landmark since 1862. Well worth the visit.
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