Reader Nathan Turner, a former Bordeaux resident, recently got in touch with me about a building that he used to ride past on his bicycl...

Could this be the coolest house in Bordeaux?

Reader Nathan Turner, a former Bordeaux resident, recently got in touch with me about a building that he used to ride past on his bicycle when he lived in the city. By linking through to Google Streetview evidence, it was easy to see that Nathan had a point; the house definitely deserved a visit!

I headed over to the unusual “hôtel particulier”, which is located on a corner at the junction between Rues Cotrel and Jean Soula, in the neighbourhood that lies between Saint-Seurin basilica and the boulevards. Technically it is number 1, Rue Cotrel, the street named after Raphaël Cotrel, the gentleman who owned the surrounding land until it was split into individual plots and sold on.

Little information is readily available about the house itself. It was designed by the 20th-century architect A. Labatut, who was also behind a house located at number 36 Rue Capdeville. There is a big part of me that hopes that this Labatut was related to Jules Jacques Labatut (1851-1937), whose main claim to fame is that he came second in the contest to design what became the spectacular Monument aux Girondins on Esplanade des Quinconces. Despite losing out to the overall project conceived by Achille Dumilâtre and Victor Rich, JJ Labatut did contribute sculptures produced with Gustave Debrie and which feature at the base of the city’s most famous column. They depict a French cockerel perched above figures which symbolise history and eloquence.

To deliver the Rue Cotrel house, A. Labatut teamed up with local contractor C. Dumet. The end product comprises so many ornate details that it's difficult to know where to start. The Rue Cotrel wing (where, bizarrely, there are no ground floor windows) includes the trace of the architect and entrepreneur, on a short stretch of wall between a tall window and and even taller stained-glass windows which no doubt house a spiral staircase.

Further along the same flank, a bulbous bow window which is seemingly held up by a stone balcony is topped off by a curious bearded and big-eared mascaron whose mouth is wide open out of surprise, shock or horror. These days it almost looks like he's in pain given the number of anti-pigeon needles that have been installed along the top of the window.

Possibly my favourite sight was this elegant doorbell system. To inform residents of your presence, you hold down (or possibly waggle?) the lion's tongue. Before opening the door, they then presumably carry out a full verbal identity check by interrogating visitors through the soundhole positioned in the middle of the door.

Over on Rue Soula, the façade is just as intricate, with a whole host of columns, an Olympic-style torch, a lyre and two copper domes (one of which tops off the staircase section) all jostling for position and attention.

Looking upwards, isolated rooms appear to pop out of the roof, suggesting that the upper levels must be a maze of short corridors and stairs. One is square-shaped with windows on all sides - it must enjoy a great panoramic view over the city. Another peaks out of nowhere and must be little more than a skylight to a smaller, darker room.

So, sorry Nathan because it's been difficult to uncover much information about this building. Maybe I should have been braver and waggled that lion's tongue to speak with the current owner. But perhaps it's best that the house retains its enigmatic air of mystery and remains a part of Bordeaux which will forever be invisible to passers-by. 
  • Find it on the Invisible Bordeaux map:
    • Coolest building in Bordeaux, 1 Rue Cotrel, Bordeaux.
  • Bug thanks to Nathan Turner for suggesting the subject! 


  1. Thank you for this interesting article ! I was living as a child very close to this house, I live in London now, so it's a great pleasure to deep into your blog :-)


    1. Thanks for reading Marianne, happy it has stirred some childhood memories. Greetings from Bordeaux!