The stunning design was created by Anouk Legendre and Nicolas Desmazières, partners at X-TU Architects. Their goal was to create a strong and audacious architectural landmark inspired by grape vines, wine glasses, and the fluidity of wine itself.

X-TU created the building in two parts. A low level follows the nearby Garonne, while the building’s 55 metre tower appears to twist up into the sky like a grape a vine.

Clad in more than 6,000 square metres of pre-painted aluminium and 900 panes of glass, the curved surface of the building is completely smooth. Although the architects initially proposed to clad the structure entirely in glass, pre-painted aluminium proved to be a more cost-effective choice, particularly when it came to achieving the building’s delicate curves.

Three types of pre-painted aluminium were utilised in the façade: Larson panels from Alucoil (Spain) and Revalu and Revbond panels from SAB-FCB (France). Each panel was finished in Pyrite Gold Silver by pre-painting specialist Euramax. While the colour is standard, the finished metal received a special treatment to reinforce the brightness and protect it from the local maritime climate.

Pre-painted aluminium was also easier to transport and place thanks to its low weight. It also meant that standard formats (typically 3 x 1.5 metres) could be utilised. However, each panel still had to be adapted to follow the curves of the design. The panels were applied to a Glulam (glue-laminated) wooden framework.

Another key advantage of pre-painted aluminium was that it allowed the panel installer SMAC to reduce the gaps between panels, creating a smoother surface than if glass had been used. The panels were also easier to perforate or emboss, and are very durable. It’s also a simple process to replace a panel if any become damaged or discoloured.

Special pre-painted aluminium ‘fish scale’ cassettes were created to cover ventilation access points. While allowing air into the building, this innovative solution minimises any visual disruption to the building’s smooth form.

X-TU Architects worked together with the English interior design agency Casson Mann to create a stunning interior. Again inspired by wine and grape vines, the fluidity and colour of the interior also reflect the Garonne which flows just a few metres away.

La Cité du Vin was opened by French President Francois Hollande in May 2016 and officially welcomed its first visitors on 1 June. The centre employs around 250 people and is expected to receive almost half a million visitors in its first year.