The structure was designed by the Toulouse-born architect Léon Jaussely (1875-1932), who had been appointed chief architect of the postal services in 1914 and is also famed for his extravagant “Hall de la Dépêche du Midi” in Toulouse and the “Cité Nationale de l'Histoire de l'Immigration” in Paris.
The Bordeaux sorting office (or, to be precise as to what it originally housed, the “Services ambulants et bureau de tri, Postes – Télégraphes – Téléphones, ligne des Pyrénées”) is arguably less eccentric than Jaussely’s Toulouse and Paris accomplishments. Behind its modernist design lay a highly functional complex that had been designed to provide the sorting teams with a streamlined environment to retrieve, process and dispatch mail by rail.
The outside of the building still sports a number of intricate art deco mosaics that were executed by ceramists Alphonse Gentil (1872-1933) and François Eugène Bourdet (1874-1952), whose other notable ceramic achievements include the Louxor cinema in the Barbès district of Paris and, elsewhere in Bordeaux, Hôtel Frugès (more of which in coming weeks). The cast-iron features were created by local company Lassus.
In 2007, the former sorting office was entirely renovated to the orders of Réseaux Ferrés de France, the French railway networks. The new interior conception, the work of Bordeaux architects Olivier Brochet, Emmanuel Lajus and Christine Pueyo, comprises a car park on the ground floor – where the lion’s share of the postal sorting process previously took place – and office space on the upper levels. The building now accommodates French railway (SNCF) teams and, from 2013 onwards, will be the control centre for high-speed railway lines.
In 2008, along with 35 other edifices throughout the Aquitaine region, the building was granted a Patrimoine du XXème siècle label, cementing its status as an example of 20th-century architectural heritage to be cherished and preserved.
In this 21st-century age, it appears to offer workers a peaceful working environment, the only distractions being the constant comings and goings of trains transiting into and out of Bordeaux, and a far cry from the hustle and bustle of the agitated nights that postal workers used to experience in the same place.