Les Docks, a fashion and design centre, has turned a riverside strip in the 13th arrondissement into one of the hippest destinations in the French capital.

In Paris’ southeastern 13th arrondissement, the riverside strip next to the Gare d’Austerlitz train station used to be a quiet space next to a busy commuter hub. But thanks to Les Docks - Cité de la Mode et du Design, a fashion and design development that opened in April 2012, it is now one of the hippest places in Paris.

Les Docks is a four floor, 14,400sqm cultural centre for fashion, design, culture and creation, with an eclectic programme spanning day and night. The building itself, with a green snake-like facade designed by successful Paris-based architects Jakob and Macfarlane, has become one of the French capital’s most striking contemporary landmarks.

The Seine-side building houses the Institut Français de la Mode, France’s national fashion institute, and hosts exhibitions for Paris’ fashion museum, Musée Galliera which is closed for renovation until 2013. Currently on display are two exhibitions: one displaying couturier Cristóbal Balenciaga’s archives that he collected over the years and another on Japanese avant-garde design house Comme des Garçons’ last catwalk collection (both running until 7 October 2012).

Savoir Faire, the team behind Paris’ hottest night clubs Social Club and Silencio, is responsible for Wanderlust which opened in Les Docks in June this year -- a multi-faceted concept featuring an indoor nightclub, the largest outdoor terrace in Paris, an outdoor bar and a  restaurant. Patrons can listen to electronic music at night or partake in outdoor yoga sessions on the terrace in the daytime. It is also home to an open-air cinema, a performance space, interactive workshops for children and adults -- such as a hair workshop where you can learn how to create the perfect topknot -- and events such as Brunch Bazar, a trendy twist on a summer fete, for all ages.

But the history of Les Docks hasn’t been without incident. Although the project was meant to open in 2008, work did not start until 2007. The contemporary architecture has proved divisive, described disdainfully as “a green thing” by detractors -- among them former president Nicolas Sarkozy -- and a “green Pompidou Centre” by supporters. However, now that Les Docks is finally open, it looks set, at last, to be a great success.

Kim Laidlaw Adrey is the Paris Localite for BBC Travel. She also writes www.unlockparis.com.