With no monumental entry – people slip in and out of the building seamlessly.

Le Lieu Unique (LU) – a play on words between a popular biscuit and “a unique place” – is possibly one of architect Patrick Bouchain’s best achievements.

Lieu Unique performs as a cultural stage for the city of Nantes in France, providing a space for artists and locals to mix. LU is a stage and a laboratory for performance, music, dance, theater, even philosophy. It is an installation space, a street, a child care center, urban learning center. And it is a place to eat. To eat cheap. To eat well. To meet in an atmosphere that is unusually multiplicitous, democratic, porous, and without pretense.

At night the Le Lieu Unique is were the cool kids hang. Le Lieu Unique winks knowingly at its former program – the old Lefevre-Utile biscuit factory, while at the same time creating an atmosphere that is anything but fussy or nostalgic. It is Nantes’s quintessential living room. Open to all.

LU’s tower acts as a beacon for the building and arguably the city as a whole. The tower draws attention to the building, and its colorful design during the day and illumination at night mark this building as an active place. A replica of the original tower, its restoration is the first measure taken to revive the site.

Patrick Bouchain preserved most of the building in its original form. Any changes are rendered explicit. New materials stand in stark contrast to the old – illustrating that while memory is crucial to the architectural fabric, it should never stunt transformation, new program, invention, progress. Materials are layered and juxtaposed with insolence and humor.

In the main lobby space, all of the new programmatic insertions are clearly demarcated and transparent, the partition walls made of commercial wire fencing. The main performance hall’s acoustic paneling is cobbled out of recycled oil barrels and West African rugs.

The building is situated with its main facade facing a canal, creating an active gathering space on the waterfront. The restaurant and bar both break the threshold of the building and stretch to the water, creating a curving streetscape – a stage of sorts where all social classes can merge . All doors to the building stay open during hours of operation. With no monumental entry – people slip in and out of the building seamlessly.

– Jordan Buckner