Pau is a small provincial city, it has long been a haven for the British wanting to escape Blighty for the good of their health. There are many spas in the area and the climate is reputed to be good for your health. The older architecture is a mix of “alpine’ grand villa and a good dose of British garden. There is a cathedral and a university and the small provincial airport is now opening up to fulfill Pau’s emerging status as the gateway to the Pyrenees.

The airport’s development and the expansion of the scientific departments at the University have led to the development of a science park on the outskirts of the city.  I have, on past visits, caught tantalizing glimpses of some of the buildings and was determined to explore further before we left Pau for good.

After one particularly frustrating afternoon, I declared a time out and went exploring and headed straight for the science park.

The science park is dominated by Total SA’s  Headquarters and the Jean Feger Scientific and Technical Center which specializes in geological and oil and gas research.  I was very disappointed but not entirely surprised that access to the complex was restricted by key cards and had security gates on every entrance.

I did manage to get a flavor of its presence from one of the side roads.

These glass fronted buildings are complimented by a lot of shiny tubular structures and walkways – which leave you in no doubt as to what industry or science the buildings are connected to.  There are pictures from inside the compound along with more details about exactly what is done here behind the closed gates in this PDF from the company themselves.

My photographs of the shiny tube passageways are not printable — the light was totally wrong and the reflection too great — even with a photo-shop fixer on the job they were just not printable.  I think others may have had the same problem.  There appear to be no pictures I could find of them.

As you turn into the park itself there is one of my favorite buildings, the one that originally caught my eye. The mix of construction materials gives the building a unique appearance, from the ultra modern shell to the almost rustic wood “railings” along one facade and the “living wall” which forms one end of the building.

If you then turn of the main avenue you can find more goodies hidden in amongst the more regular buildings.

This company makes aircraft parts and has a fuselage incorporated into the design of the building.

Less subtle, but equally striking, is this huge Y  shaped edifice  – taken from two angles:

Last, but not least, this last building was hidden behind trees and situated on a roundabout — took three times to get the shot I wanted .

I believe, and I may well be wrong, that this houses a small specialist courier firm that ships around the world.

I know there are many science parks all over the world with grand and innovative architecture and design.  Maybe I will get a chance to visit some of them on my travels.

I was, however, particularly taken by the mixing of form and function here and it was good to post and share something modern after the historic grandeur of Venice and Vienna.


  1. It was a must – I have been wanting to explore them since my first visit. I very much appreciated the vision of the architects to give real definition to their work and make them reflective of their purpose. They could have easily been square blocks – although I doubt Total would have settled for that. I wish I could have caught the living wall in flower and I dream of a key card to get inside Total to photograph more.

    i was disappointed that I could not find and provide more information about the architects involved – but that might come with a little more digging – especially if I can get Mr P on the job !

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