Many naturally associate the suburban town of Mérignac with its airport and its massive retail park. But it is also a bona fide community ...

Médiathèque de Mérignac: where the 20th and 21st centuries merge

Many naturally associate the suburban town of Mérignac with its airport and its massive retail park. But it is also a bona fide community with a dynamic town centre, a vibrant cultural scene and a population of almost 70,000, second only to Bordeaux itself in terms of headcounts in Gironde!

One of the most visible symbols of 21st-century Mérignac is its recently-completed Médiathèque (multimedia library that lends out books, music and videos), just next to the town’s main church. Its façades offer a telling reminder of how much Mérignac has developed since the start of the 20th century, when the population numbered 7,000!

The modern-day library development has been grafted onto what used to be the town hall and local primary school, the “Groupe Scolaire du Bourg”, later known as “Groupe Scolaire Jules Ferry” and now located in more modern premises just around the corner. The original school buildings were built between 1897 and 1904, going on to merge with the Achille Monginoux-conceived town hall which was added between 1902 and 1905 (designed to replace the previous mairie which Mérignac had already outgrown). It continued to function as a town hall until 1979, when the municipality’s administrative services again moved to more spacious quarters 500 metres away.

The new-generation metal-and-glass structure, conceived by François Lombard and Patrice Loirat from local architects HPL and built between 2005 and 2007, has seemingly been layered around and on top of the original buildings, although in reality only the walls remain. This technique is known as "façadism".

One of the most distinctive characteristics of the town hall building is its cylindrical corner tower, proudly dated “1904”. A metallic plateau now surrounds it and extends several metres over the pavement. This being the southern façade, the roof offers welcome shade when the sun is at its highest points during the summer months.

On the inside the library spreads over four storeys, representing 5,600 square metres of unexpurgated culture (220,000 items and counting)! Down in the basement, a 126-seater auditorium provides the setting for conferences. The ground floor boasts a 100-square-metre area that hosts temporary events and exhibitions, a youth information bureau and access to online resources. The first floor is where you’ll find books, CDs and DVDs, while the children’s section is on the top floor.

The complex itself, which is 100 metres in length, also includes apartments and office space (architects and a geometer have taken up residence there). Furthermore, it has been tailored to meet the more down-to-earth needs of the library: the mobile library (or “bibliobus”) even has its own sheltered parking space complete with everything it needs to charge up its batteries… and easy access to the main library in order to renew the stock of 5,500 books and magazines it takes on its regular trips to schools and into different parts of the town.


  1. I have read this a couple of times trying to make up my mind if I like the idea of the grafting of old and new. Not sure that I do, but if it helps to preserve the old buildings then I am all for it. Diane

  2. I think this is definitely a success - excellent photos too!

  3. I like it a lot. There are echoes of the Pyramide du Louvre, with its in-your-face juxtaposition of old and new.

    Any idea what local reaction was like? I can imagine it leaves very few people indifferent...

  4. From what I can make out, following a spot survey on a couple of colleagues who live in Mérignac, the project has been welcomed with open arms and has generated a lot of positive feedback throughout the town. I half-expected them to say that some might have regarded it as a form of sacrilege, but far from it!

    Diane: I also spent some time wondering what side of the fence I was sitting on, but I do think the project has been carried out tastefully... and the place is far more alive than it probably was a few years back. Plus, the fact that it's been turned into a library possibly lends it more credibility than if it had been just another swanky residence. Still, when cross-referencing with those old photos, it remains a major shock to the system!

  5. I don't like at all the mixing of old and modern. Just not what I remember of the place. I lived in Merignac in the late 60s as a young child.

    1. Mérignac is one of the suburbs of Bordeaux that has arguably changed the most since the late 60s. Have you been back of late?