The coolest new buildings in France

France is always evolving. Old buildings are being rejuvenated, restored and renovated every day, while futuristic, innovative structures are popping up everywhere from Marseille to Montpellier. Here are the most impressive architectural wonders from the last five years.

Marseille's cutting-edge commercial centre

Marseille has a strong connection to the sea, and Les Docks, a historic building originally constructed in 1858, plays a central role in the city’s identity. After more than two years of renovations, Les Docks reopened in 2015 to much acclaim. Today, it’s a bustling commercial centre with the 60 independent retailers, shops and restaurants teeming with people day and night.

Les Docks Village - Marseille - 10 Place de la Joliette

A space-age shopping centre in Metz

Located in the Amphithéâtre quarter, just behind the Centre Pompidou-Metz, Muse is a sleek two-level shopping centre with offices, residences, gardens and parking lots all spread over 80,000m2. The exterior features a blue-tinted glass façade, propped up by white trunks, while inside boasts contemporary artworks like the spectacular Polyèdre Bleu by Julio Le Parc.

Muse (External link) - Metz - 2 rue des Messageries

Nantes' winding wood tunnel

Oscillation is a pop-up art installation designed to protect a construction site in Nantes. It’s a long open tunnel criss-crossed with beams all made from the same section of wood. Depending on the time of day, the sun hits the winding walkway at different angles, artistically diffusing the light. It won’t be around forever though – Oscillation will only be there for two years until construction is finished.

Le Voyage à Nantes (External link)

A unique chocolate factory in Saint-Etienne

Atelier Weiss is no ordinary chocolate shop. Aside from selling melt-in-your-mouth chocolates, this modern steel and glass warehouse also has an exhibition space, gourmet refreshment area and the actual Atelier Weiss factory where you can watch chocolatiers prepare a fresh velvety batch.

Ateliers Weiss (External link) - Saint Etienne - 1 Rue Eugène Weiss

An inflatable cloud in Montpellier

Created by renowned designer Philippe Starck, Le Nuage in Montpellier is the first inflatable private structure in Europe. The bubble-like building is actually home to a 3,000m² fitness and wellness centre with a pool, gym, café and children’s area, all decked out in Starck’s celebrated furniture.

Le Nuage - Montpellier - 769 Avenue de la Mer-Raymond Dugrand

The building with eyes in Nancy

Previously a gasworks site, Quai Ouest has transformed Nancy’s cityscape with its imposing stainless steel shell, broken up with 650 eye-shaped windows looking out over the Canal. Inside this 10,000m² space are corporate headquarters, a residential hotel and shops.

Quai Ouest by Anne Demians (External link) (in french)

A ship-school in Le Havre

It certainly makes sense for the French Maritime Academy to be housed in a striking boat-shaped building! The École Nationale Supérieure Maritime in Le Havre was designed to take the structural principles of an actual boat and apply them to the architecture. A fully-functional school, there are even simulation ‘machine’ rooms, a marine engine and 10 ‘gangway’ simulations over the three levels.

École Nationale Supérieure Maritime (ENSM) - Le Havre - 10 Quai Frissard

The ultimate design hotel in Strasbourg

OKKO HOTELS have a select number of 4-star boutique hotels in France, but the latest Strasbourg creation really stands out from the rest. It has all the modern design elements – 120 rooms featuring a bold colour palette, minimalist furniture and lots of natural light – but it’s actually the Club Area that’s causing all the buzz. Designed by Patrick Norguet, this 350m2 space has areas to work, relax, meet and eat.

Okko Hotel Strasbourg (External link) - Strasbourg - 46 Rue du Bassin d'Austerlitz