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Darwin the Trendy Sustainable Side of Bordeaux

In 1996, Bordeaux decide to jack up and become a city of the 21st century. The ensuing project developed in several stages – the facades of the city’s Baroque buildings were cleaned (Bordeaux’s 18th-century heritage is exceptional), the docks along the Garonne river were reconditioned and a solar-powered tramway was built. The Bordelais are rightly proud of this sustainability initiative. This whole facelift led to the capital of Aquitania being chosen as the European Best Destination in 2015 with an all-time record score, ahead of the greats like Rome, Brussels, London and Berlin.

Apart from the aforementioned works, designed to modernise the city, Bordeaux has committed to sustainability. Among other things, three years ago this involved unveiling the Darwin Ecosysteme, an area around the Queyries quayside, although the project originally dates from 2005. This area, which stretches along the right bank of the Garonne, is sited over an erstwhile industrial zone. Cleaning it up and remodelling it took two years. The brain behind the project is Philippe Barre, an Bordeaux entrepreneur committed to sustainable development who did not hesitate to invest his own money in an ecosystem which combines energy efficiency, renewable energies, ecology and thrift. To this end, Darwin is managed by the Évolution Group, an incubator of companies devoted to sustainable development, funded through office space rentals and coworking, events organising and the support of private patrons and, to a lesser extent, public subsidies. The ultimate aim of this initiative is to elicit the responsible use of resources in order to check the advance of climate change.

At first glance Darwin looks like a half-derelict site, but it actually houses over a hundred companies, many of them start-ups, who are dedicated to sustainable development – a pre-condition for being allowed to set up here. This fosters a pleasant, ecological working environment for employees, able to reap the benefits of an ecosystem conducive to development and human growth. Also based here are around twenty Bordeaux associations involved in urban culture and ecology.

Darwin features some unique spaces, such as a huge skatepark built using recycled materials, graffiti-decorated walls, the Magasin Général, the largest biological restaurant in France and a macrostore with organic products. Protecting the environment is an idea which is here starting to take its first few tentative steps, so it comes as no surprise that the projects evolving in this area are still on a modest scale, such as protecting bees, organic allotments and free-range chicken rearing. There is also a recycling station which supplies material to the coworking spaces. In the future, Darwin will be hosting fully sustainable social housing, making it the most ecological district in Bordeaux.

Fancy seeing this sustainable district for yourself? Check out your Vueling to Bordeaux here.


Text and images by Tus Destinos

Images by Sara Soulignac and S.Duboscq

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