The Ile de Nantes is a huge area undergoing redevelopment located in the heart of the city along the banks of the Loire River. The 337-hectare Ile de Nantes project is one of the largest urban projects in Europe. Nantes Métropole wanted to give a new vocation to the site of the former shipyards while still respecting its past.

The universe of the Machines in the industrial warehouses

Located on the western tip of the Ile de Nantes – the Prairie-au-Duc – across from the Quai de la Fosse, these huge iron, concrete and steel warehouses were build in the early 20th century to house the metalworking shops of the Chantiers de la Loire shipyards. Until their closure in 1987, they were the mainstay of Nantes’ shipbuilding industry.

The rehabilitation of the warehouses safeguards and showcases the history of the shipyards, a symbol of the industrial and maritime culture of Nantes, also on exhibit at the nearby Maison des Hommes et des Techniques. The Machines that have taken possession of the premises embody the new life of the warehouses, which are transformed into a new public space for the city.

An urban dimension

This long-term project goes hand in hand with an urban development venture.

Nantes Métropole, with the SAMOA, a public-private corporation in charge of orchestrating the urban redevelopment of the Ile de Nantes, wanted, with the Machines project, to create a tourist attraction with a strong arts focus in the public space. The redevelopment plan, designed by the team of Alexandre Chemetoff, urban planner and architect, respects the principles of sustainable development and expresses the diversity of both the population and the architecture. This is Alexandre Chemetoff who revealed these Warehouses by enhancing their metal framework and by letting the light magnifying them.

The Machines de l’île are designed to become part and parcel of the future urban fabric, which a closed amusement park would not achieve. The Elephant can be seen walking around from far away or discover the Marine Worlds Carousel. Likewise, the branch of the Heron Tree is visible even before the visitors arrive in front of the warehouses.

This poetic universe mobilises the public as well as the economic and tourist players and attracts visitors from all around the world. It is part of the Voyage à Nantes that brings together all the richness of the cultural offer and of the tourist attractions of the city.


The mission of project management of the workshop and of the Machine Gallery was entrusted by Nantes Métropole to the partner architects Nicole Concordet, Patrick Bouchain and Christophe Theilmann for the Machine-Manaus grouping. The project occupies spaces dedicated to building and exhibiting, sheltered by the Dubigeon Naves,the former construction halls of Nantes shipyards. Setting up the company La Machine under the Naves is giving them back their original purpose.

Place of production, of manufacture and of exhibition, these spaces were designed following a logic of use peculiar to building workshops. For economical reasons and production deadlines, the architectures produced within this project are fairground and mobile.

Under the naves, maritime containers stacked on a « wood rack » host the business premises and form a façade on the indoor street. The access to the containers is through a dual system of passageways, public on the street side and private on the side of company La Machine workshop. In the indoor street, the wooden passageways give access to the Branch and to the pier of the Elephant. As an extention of the Naves, the horticultural greenhouses shelter the exhibition areas.

On the esplanade, under the prototype branch, a house with a wooden framework hosts the bar-shop of the Branch. Along the Façade, the gables are closed by big wooden self-stable trestles carrying waterproof covers constituted of oversized coloured bands. With their great height, the bridge crane, the existing marble walls and the easy access for trucks the wood and metal workshops occupy the Naves on street level.


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