In historical and institutional terms, Pey-Berland Square is the most important public space of Bordeaux, where the cathedral and City Hall stand, and which covers a surface of approximately 30,000 square meters. At the time when the proposal was designed, this space was completely dominated by busy traffic and by the fragmentation caused by a chaotic organization. The cathedral, a first-rate monument, was clearly detached from its context, absent one could say. What was once a historical contribution to the urban scenario had become yet another addition to the reigning disorder.
The City Council of Bordeaux decided to call a competition to generate architectural proposals which, acting on the spatial configuration of the complex and its redevelopment, would allow the same to earn the urban significance that the cathedral and its surroundings deserve.
The project presented recovers the cathedral as an exceptional historical piece, but also as an element capable of spurring on urban “energies” in the rest of the city. A continuous pavement full of references to the cathedral takes up the void left after the removal of numerous encumbering obstacles (mainly those related to traffic). Evoking the plaques that covered the tombs inside the temple, surfaces of light sail freely in the sea of granite covering the square, now only for pedestrian circulation. The two central buildings, cathedral (religious power) and City Hall (civil power), stand out over the solid and timeless urban plinth. The project design also suggests small additions to address specific problems as well as a special treatment for some areas and spaces that, though part of the whole complex, must be given a special attention. In this sense the streetcar, as a means for public transportation that is quiet and economical, takes on a important role that is reflected in the treatment of paved areas and in the scenographic character it acquires: new, clean technology for a historical site. And the space between the cathedral apse and tower or the southerly tree-lined promenade see how their role as “gardens of the cathedral”, as private living spaces, is enhanced by this new design, without obscuring the perception of the square as a whole. Wood blocks and different kinds of granite paving point up this aspect.
Place Pey-Berland, 33000 Burdeos, Francia