Photography Blog

James Tarry's photography blog. Ramblings from a photographers over active mind. Email now or call +44 (0)7855 742 633.

Architecture: Art Deco CGT building, Bordeaux

While in Bordeaux, I was lucky enough to be granted access to Bordeaux's CGT (Confédération générale du travail) union building. The CGT is the first of five major unions in France and was founded in 1895, it has a fascinating history some of which can be found here, I will leave it to far better commentators to describe it than I if you don't mind on this occasion. 

The building in Bordeaux that houses the CGT offices though is a stunning Art deco styled construction of two triangles, these two triangles are linked with a central light well that runs through the centre. On the ground floor the lobby still has its original flooring (as does most of the building) that is constructed of triangles that echo the building, and the ceiling decoration. A grand staircase sweeps you up to a stunning corridor (for lack of a better word) that displays beautiful floor to ceiling art work and in the middle, two wonderful heavy set doors.

I was told that there was a theatre before the visit but wasn't really sure what to expect, I certainly didn't expect this. We walked through the double doors into a grand two tier, stunner of a room. Huge windows that let soft light from outside in ran down the entire length of one side, while towering pillars held up the elaborate ceiling and muraled walls. Above the main floor the second tier, we asked if access was possible, and was led through another set of doors to a staircase that took us up to a treat beyond our wildest dreams.

Under an art deco clock that sat at the top of the top tier, a door, beyond that door a locked door, and beyond that dusty old locked door? A perfectly preserved projection room. It had been left, exactly as was by the very last operator, wine bottle and all! Three projectors, an array of buttons, fuses and even the showers were still in place. For those of you that might not know, celluloid was an extremely volatile substance and could easily catch alight, so showers above projectors were installed just in case one caught fire! For film fans, it was a magic place, a place that sadly doesn't really exist anymore. We breathed it in. 

Our host moved us on and upwards. The original elevator still in tact ran through the center of the staircase, a staircase that had Bordeaux's emblem beautifully cut into the red metal. Up to the roof where a courtyard had been restored and sat in the warm southern sun, through another locked room that housed the back of the exterior art deco clock, this was the visit that just kept on giving.

I certainly had regretted not bringing my tripod, shooting everything handheld at a high ISO in mostly very dark conditions wasn't easy, especially in the theatre with the large light sources. I could've been in the projection room for hours taking an assortment of shots-but our host had taken time out of her day to give us an extensive behind the scenes tour so it was rude to drag behind. I am happy though with the selection of images below, particulary the dusty upper level portrait. Just to see this place and the rooms was a privilege not extended to many and a wonderful experience, one I will not forget anytime soon.