Les Bassins de Lumières


For art connoisseurs weary of The Great Lockdown, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Behold Les Bassins de Lumières (The Pools of Light), an immersive digital art center housed in a former World War II submarine base in the docklands of Bordeaux, France. Delayed by seven weeks due to the country’s COVID-19 restrictions, the €14 million project is designed to create “unforgettable visual and audio experiences in a unique setting, a place for sharing culture that is open to all types of visitors,” says Bruno Monnier, president of Culturespaces.

The French museum management company worked with architectural firm Brochet Lajus Pueyo and other specialist technical partners to create what it proclaims to be the world’s largest digital art space. Using 90 video projectors and 80 speakers, the team set out to not just build a dazzling experience of light and sound, but one that was specifically suited to the monumental architecture of the submarine base.

The Bassins space offers projection surface of more than 12,000 square meters (150,694 square feet), including cavernous chambers that surround four massive pools that once housed Nazi submarines. But that’s not where it ends. Le Cube, a 220-square-meter (2,368-square-foot) box, displays digitized projections of contemporary art, while the 7-meter-high (22 feet-high) La Citerne invites visitors to lie down and experience the immersive exhibitions from a distinct perspective.

One current exhibit features magnificent digital projections of art from Gustav Klimt, Paul Klee and Egon Schiele illuminating the space. Another centers around millions of data points captured in the sea to create a unique artwork based on forms, light and movement generated through an algorithm.

As part of the new normal dictated by the coronavirus, the team took extra precautions for visitor safety. Tickets are sold in 30-minute time slots and can only be purchased online. Since opening the space on 10 June, the company also requires visitors to have their temperatures checked at the entrance, and that they wear masks and use hand sanitizer. And with so much floor space to roam—the equivalent of 12 tennis courts—visitors have ample space for social distancing.

The big picture: As lockdown restrictions across the globe are lifted, The Bassins offers a preview of what the future of public exhibitions could look like.