The lieu unique is the national center for contemporary arts and music venue in Nantes, France. Opened on January 1, 2000, it is housed in a former biscuit factory at the center of the city. It was founded by Jean Blaise and is now directed (since January 2011), by Patrick Gyger.
Scène nationale of Nantes (national center for contemporary arts), the lieu unique is a space for artistic exploration, cultural effervescence and conviviality. It mixes genres, cultures and publics. It heralds a spirit for curiosity in the different areas of arts: visual arts, theater, dance, circus, music, literature, philosophy, architecture and cuisine.
A place for meddling, the lieu unique is the home, next to the spaces dedicated to creation, of a bar, a restaurant, a bookstore, a hammam, a day nursery and a gift shop. The iconic tower of the former factory, with a view on the city, can also be visited.
Every year the lieu unique presents dozens of shows (theater, dance, circus, music, literary meetings, philosophical debates, …), exhibitions, residencies for artists, recurring events and festivals, and workshops.Mixing of artistic forms
Abolition of the boundaries between disciplines and between the scene and the public
Diffusion of a culture as popular as experimental
Renewing the artistic forms
All year long, the different departments of the lieu unique (fine arts, theater, dance, music, literature, …) program with regional, national and international vocations.
“A factory producing the imaginary”, the lieu unique follows a certain idea of cultural development: “We don’t want to build a theater but more a center of arts open permanently to the audience. LU must become both the local bistro citywide and a European platform for contemporary arts. That’s why the social spaces are important and not beside the spaces kept for artistic creation. To the contrary, they here as a support to this creation, thought to preserve it from the temptation of isolation, to connect it to life. LU must be unique, in the sense of extraordinary. A place that will let neither the artist nor the work in peace.” (Jean Blaise, during the opening of the lieu unique)
During the 20th century, it was a Lefèvre-Utile factory. Today, the building is what is left of the architectural presence of LU in Nantes. The demolition of the manufacturer’s site started in 1974. It only left a decapitated tower and the building where the lieu unique is now. The disused spaces became a cultural squat. In 1994, it welcomed the 4th installment of the festival Les Allumées. Created by a local and nomad association, the CRDC (Centre de recherche pour le développement culturel – Research center for cultural development), this festival featured during 6 days and 6 nights, artists from big cities in the world: Barcelona, St Petersburg, Buenos Aires, Naples, Cairo.
Jean Blaise, director of the CRDC, wanted to settle on a permanent basis in this place. He submitted a cultural project to Jean-Marc Ayrault, mayor of Nantes: to create a place where life would spontaneously be side by side with art, in its more contemporary or even disturbing ways. The project also included spaces of services (bar, restaurant, bookstore, day nursery, hammam).
The city bought the building in 1995. It was declared protected site and escaped from demolition. It welcomed new cultural events from the CRDC: June 1996, Trafics : marché de l’art et trafic de spectacles (Traffics: art fair and show traffics) in June 1996, Cuisines et Performances (Cuisines and Performances) in June 1997, Fin de siècle (End of century) in Johannesburg in October 1997, Fin de siècle (End of century) in New York in 1998. The tower is built again. The factory is renovated by the architect Patrick Bouchain, respecting the industrial identity of the site.
Jean Blaise and his team opened the lieu unique on the 30th of December 1999, during the "End of century" festival in Nantes. This opening was marked by the Grenier du siècle (The Store of the century). A translucent double wall was designed to receive an important collection of objects given by the population. Put in cans, these objects are going to stay a whole century in this Store, until its opening on 1 January 2100 at 5pm.