Hangar Darwin – Bordeaux, France.
Identified by Bordeaux City Hall and the CUB (Urban Community of Bordeaux) as an ideal location to create an eco-friendly space. This ex-military installation was transformed in just 5 years from the initial idea in 2007 for the space to the first occupiers moving in in 2012. Centred around the warehouses of the barracks, over 100 companies and 30 associations have joined together in creating an impressive eco-grocery store, a bar/club and an enormous indoor skatepark. Journeying through the site, you begin with the commissioned murals found in the centre then scaling outwards to the perimeter where opportunistic pieces, burners and throw ups coat brickwork and plaster from window to window and roof down.
Not quite venturing too far out from Bordeaux city centre, though crossing the river, lies the industrial edge of the city that borders the start of the expansive suburbs typical of all French cities. You can choose to take the ferry across which costs just €2 from Quinconces and walk 15 minutes north. Alternatively taking just under 45 minutes from the Miroir d’eau, walk straight there across the Pont De Pierre which makes for a spectacular view of what is included in UNESCO’s World Heritage list as ‘an outstanding urban and architectural ensemble’. You would do well to not let the somewhat… browning… water of the river taint the sight of the washed stone buildings parading against the riverside. Once you have crossed the bridge, it is similar to the ferry with it taking 15-20 minutes up the river to get to Darwin.
Snaking your way along the river, you will be surrounded by the deserted (in the daytime) sky-rise apartments as everyone is either at work or joining you on the riverside for the networks of green space, plantations and bike routes stretching the length of its bank. As the apartment blocks begin to spread out, the shrubbery becomes more overgrown and the neglected grey brickwork of the buildings begins to gradient in to paint. Techniques creating sharp metallic lettering, bubble lettering with colours reminiscent of the ice-cream stalls dotted along the streets of St Catherine’s and alike, and of course the caricatures with vicious grins and bulbous eyes staring back at you.
Upon identifying the “Darwin” entrance sign in the distance, your surroundings are the first sign of what awaits you later inside; the wall down rue Hortense, and the great big finger pointing at you. The road itself leads to nothing special, just a cul-de-sac of abandoned flats. However, it is worth walking the length of the wall and finally taking a step back to see just how big yet detailed Docteur Jonz’s creation on the wall before you is.
Back on to the main road and in through the Hangar Darwin entrance, you’re greeted by 2 massive murals. The first being Dour One’s cosmic mural, with a vibrant red/blue/orange colour pallet similar to what you’d see through a pair of thermal vision goggles. The second, and more intimidating of the few in this entrance is the huge plasterboard Monkey the size of the building it stands in, just behind the first example of the eco-friendly pods you will find around Hangar Darwin which are used as temporary accommodation or work spaces for members of the 100 companies/30 associations mentioned at the beginning of this post. One of my favourite pieces of all those that I found in Darwin lurks just to the side and slightly behind the primate. Written by Fullcolour, a big name in Bordeaux’s graffiti scene known for both his bursts of smoothly blended colour and a 350m² mural at the skatepark on Chartrons dock.
Leaving the primate room and continuing down the path you’ll see something you’ll no doubt find familiar if you’ve explored Bordeaux previous to going to Darwin. Alber One’s cubist-style shifty looking cartoons are everywhere in Bordeaux. On the metal shutters of highstreet shops, down random alleys, and here in Darwin there are quite a few. You can usually spot them from quite a distance away with their low-lid eyes watching you from afar. The faces are made up of shapes within shapes, making up the features and contours of the face as if it were a melted puzzle.
With these pieces on your right, the bar, restaurant and eco-grocery store are on your left. Shrouded by a huge wooden art installation that looks like a splintered spiralling tunnel, you enter just underneath it in to the bar and restaurant. They have their own organically made blonde Lager there named… well… Darwin beer. It’s pretty good if you’ve trekked your way around the whole of Darwin so I’d save it for the end as a refreshment. I didn’t explore much of the shop itself as my interest didn’t lie with eco-friendly chocolate that ended up tasting like Tesco value cooking chocolate but was six times the price.
Away from the building which contains the bar/restaurant/shop, was the rest of the site. It probably took a good few hours to walk around and fully explore all the corners and hidden parts of it. There was a lot of fencing up – I didn’t believe it to be because the area was restricted but more because it was a bit dodgy in some of the areas. For example, in one place there was a pile of splintered wood which could’ve been nasty if you’d fallen on it. But there’s loads to see in these cordoned off places so it’s worth getting in and treading lightly. The downside to this place is that with it being a public well-known attraction, it was a little busy. Comparing it to a place called Teufelsberg which I will write a post about next, it lacked that eerie emptiness and therefore felt a bit too touristy. Still definitely worth a visit though as there’s some real local talent who managed to get their stuff up on all the walls. I can’t stress enough how worth it it is to check every single doorway, and go round every single corner because there’ll always be an impressive piece lurking away from plain view. Rain or shine, these pieces pop, so go whenever.
Anyway, here’s the rest of the better pictures I took of the ones I liked the most. And check out the hyperlinks on the artists’ names throughout the post to see more of their work.