Suburban shelter #10 : Neptunea

Mrzyk & Moriceau

Suburban Shelters

Lake of Bordeaux Bruges

Lake of Bordeaux Bruges

Created in the 1960s to dry out an area of marshland and to extend the urban development of the city further north, the Lac de Bordeaux Bruges covers almost 400 acres.

A plentiful urban environment exists along the 5 miles of bank, where leisure facilities co-exist alongside more spontaneous and wild uses of the area. There is a large sandy beach that is crowded in the summer, a fitness trail in the shade of a pine forest, a large meadow where every weekend unlikely pop-up restaurants appear, run by Asian families and poetically named “Dames du Lac” or “Ladies of the Lake,” and even a place to wild dive from the ring road bridge. The shores around the lake are now largely urbanised and offer a patchwork of modern and contemporary architecture that is marked in particular by the never-ending, pioneering exposition centre (the largest in France) and by the skyline of the new ecoquarter, Ginko.

The Neptunea shelter is situated on the water, on the edge of a secret cove. Its white silhouette, visible from all directions, is a visual landmark in this eclectic environment.



Mrzyk & Moriceau have designed a piece that looks like a giant gastropod. In our imaginations, the shell connects two worlds: the opaque animal shell hints at a life beyond that which can’t be seen – a life in this ambiguous relationship between a solid, protective shell, and a soft, flexible, vulnerable and intimate mass. The small interior, designed by two artists, was inspired by the large Neptunea family; the translucent walls rise upwards in a gently spiralling motion that is reminiscent of other forms from Italian ice cream, to cyclone clouds or galaxy spiral arms. In nature there are no right angles.

This house-shell is also part of the aftermath of nonfunctionalist architecture that advocates a fluid habitat, and recreates the link between the mother’s womb, the protective shell and the nest. Neptunea reminds us of other utopian sculptural architecture, such as the works of Pierre Székely, Jean-Louis Chanéac, Antti Lovag or Pascal & Claude Haüsermann. These last two, as precursors to the shell house, designed the plans for the Unal House, which directly inspired Annette Tison and Talus Tayo with the Barbapapa house. Neptunea owes a lot to these organically shaped “bubble houses,” those which are sometimes referred to as blob architecture.

Suburban Shelters

A project imagined by Bruit du frigo,
carried out in collaboration with Zébra3,
for Bordeaux Métropole

A unique concept

To improve our understanding of our cities, we have to venture out onto their pathway, into their hidden areas and their borders. Explore these unknown areas on foot. Stop. Spend the night. 

Bordeaux’s suburban shelters offer 11 artistic observatories of a constantly moving metropolis, all of them connected together by a network of paths and back roads. 

11 works of architecture that relate to their environment, that invite the walker, the resident, the visitor, to take a fresh look at the suburbs.  To rediscover, step by step, the great outdoors that is on the city’s doorstep, taking a contemporary and innovative stroll off the beaten track.

Extract from the book Les Refuges périurbains/Suburban Shelters

The concept of a Suburban Shelter was imagined in 1999 by Yvan Detraz with the aim to enhance the suburban territory of the Bordeaux metropolis and to develop pedestrian itinerancy.

The Common Land Trail of Greater Bordeaux, created by Bruit du frigo, is marked out by the 11 peri-urban refuges.

> Download  « Genesis », a text by Sebastien Gazeau – Fr./En.

Since 2010, the Suburban Shelters project has been led by Bruit du frigo (project design, general and artistic direction), in collaboration with Zébra3 (artistic and technical direction / production).

It is supported and financed by Bordeaux Métropole, with the participation of the host municipalities (Ambares-et-Lagrave, Ambes, Bassens, Bègles, Bordeaux, Floirac, Gradignan, Le Haillan, Lormont, Pessac, Saint-Médard-en-Jalles).

The popularity of the Shelters has grown steadily over the years, both with the inhabitants of the city and with passing visitors, who are invited to stay in these unusual accommodations for one night : as a couple, with family, with friends, they come to share a moment of plenitude, a break from the daily routine or simply to enjoy a friendly moment.

The Shelters are open from March 1st to November 30th and are free of charge. All you need to do is to book (one night maximum). Comfort is basic and there is no water or electricity.

A new type of public equipment for a new urban use

Urban metropolises, like large natural spaces, offer a scale of territory and a diversity of landscapes conducive to adventure and exploration. From this point of view, they can be seen as lands for hiking. The emergence of the practice of suburban hiking and, more broadly, of a new form of tourism on the outskirts of cities now seems possible. A change of perception towards these territories is happening, and augurs well for the development of a richer and more extensive use of the urban peripheries by its inhabitants. The Bordeaux periphery has this potential for escape and resourcing, this exoticism of proximity conducive to the practice of hiking. It takes 5 to 6 days to walk around it.

In order to embody and promote the practice of suburban walk and more widely to encourage the discovery of the territory, we have imagined to install a series of shelters around the Bordeaux metropolis.

  • Shelters for hikers, as in the high mountains.
  • Shelters for those who wish to experience an unusual retreat in the heart of the city.
  • Shelters with desirable shapes, all unique, between sculpture and architecture, able to offer its occupants an unforgettable spatial and poetic experience.

The Suburban Shelters are conceived as a cultural equipment divided into eleven pieces spread throughout the territory.

The Cloud, pilot shelter

In 2010, as part of the 1st edition of panoramas, a contemporary art biennial on the Parc des Coteaux on the right bank of Bordeaux (Bassens, Cenon, Floirac, Lormont), Bruit du frigo proposed to test the concept of a suburban shelter. The design of this pilot refuge was entrusted to Zébra3, who imagined and produced Le Nuage (“The Cloud”), installed at the Parc de l’Ermitage in Lormont.

It is from this pioneering experience and in view of its public success, that we sought with Zébra3 to extend the concept to the scale of the urban area. In 2012, the CUB (Bordeaux Urban Community) committed itself to the adventure by supporting this unprecedented project. From now on, Bordeaux Métropole is responsible for its daily management and development, with the support of the host municipalities.

An award-winning project

The Suburban Shelters project received the 2016 Suburban Innovation Award in the category of Living together, social cohesion and culture from the Ministry of Territorial Development, Rural Affairs and Local Authorities.

Press kit Suburban Innovation Award 2016


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At the crossroads of art, territories and populations, our approach aims to promote the transition to sustainable, shared and welcoming cities, by proposing alternative ways of imagining and building our living environment and by exploring new forms of public space.