The Grand Café

The building

The Grand Café was build in the middle of the XIXth Century. It's located in front of "La place des quatre'z Horloges" which marks the entrance of the harbour.

Every room of the bulding is used for exhibitions (4 rooms; total surface 398m² )
There is two floors, on the first floor,  4 huge american windows bring a very bright light to the rooms and create a wide open space.
Upstairs, big ancient windows offer a great light aswell, with a warm atmosphere.

The place still offer a great view of the past architectural elements. (downstairs: cast-iron pillars, tiled floor and upstairs: floorboards and iron balcony).

The difference between the 1st and the 2nd floor alow to show very varied kind of artworks.

The reception and documentation room (downdstairs) is situated where the old kitchens were.
Here, visitors can find information about the artists, their work, actuality of the region, or discuss about the exhibition with a mediator.

The context

Situated in the entrance of the harbour, and close to the city center, the Grand Café constitutes an important part of the development and the revival of the city, which is concidered as a "urban laboratory". Saint-Nazaire offers to artists a very lush territory where the city, the industrial activity, the social history, the heritage of the reconstruction, and the coastal spirit are combined.

Saint-Nazaire is a city entirely linked to the history of modernity.

At the beginning of the 19th century, Saint-Nazaire was a small pilot station with 600 inhabitants. In the space of a few decades, under the combined impetus of the Government, some engineers and the industrial and financial sectors, in particular the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique,

1835 saw the start of a long period of expansion, a "Californian boom", with the construction of the breakwater built to provide shelter for ships. In 1840, Saint-Nazaire became the port of departure for a transatlantic postal service and in 1847 work started on excavating the first dock. Ten years later, the town had 2,000 inhabitants and had become the main port of embarkation for the West Indies, Mexico and Cayenne.

During the Second World War, the port of Saint-Nazaire was strategically importantIn January 1941, the German occupiers began constructing the submarine base and a series of bunkers along the coast and at the mouth of the estuary. By December 1942 this enormous site, which housed two U-boat fleets engaged in the battle of the Atlantic, was fitted out as an arsenal. It contained 62 torpedo workshops, engineering machinery... and four kitchens, a service block and a dental surgery... Several thousand workmen were requisitioned for the construction of this immense edifice, which had a surface area of 39,000 m2 requiring 480,000 m2 of concrete.

By 1944, the whole of France had been liberated, with the exception of pockets of German resistance around the submarine bases. Between September 1944 and May 1945 the Saint-Nazaire area was surrounded by American Allied forces and French Resistance units. The centre of this Fortress Saint-
Nazaire was the submarine base. When Saint-Nazaire was liberated in 1945, the French Navy took over the base, using it for refitting and repairing warships and commercial vessels until 1948. It was then used by companies dealing in phosphates and soya cake and by the Saint-Nazaire shipbuilders for the construction of 8 minesweepers for the French Navy (1953-55). Today, the submarine base is at the heart of the Ville-Port project.

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Galeries :

The Grand Café