Cité de l’océan et du Surf | The Plan
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Cité de l’océan et du Surf

Steven Holl Architects | Solange Fabião

Perched on a hill high above the sea, at walking distance from the shore of the bay of Biscay, la Cité de l’Ocean et du Surf in Biarritz was inaugurated on June 25, 2011. The colors of the sea, the infinite marine horizon and the relatively unknown depth of the ocean, not to mention his own experience as a young surfer on the East coast of the Pacific Ocean, inspired Steven Holl to respond with a wave-like platform perpendicular to the coastline - a platform from which three glass pavilions emerge like three great rocks in the sea. Below this gently curved platform with a nearly folded edge - the crown of the wave - is a vast curved ceiling that provides a deep cavern where reflected daylight penetrates from above on three sides to be then mirrored on the ceiling. Below this ceiling lies the permanent exhibition. The first of the glass pavilions acts like a reflected lens to provide most of the daylight below and serves as a reception place above. The other glass pavilions contain a restaurant, bar and offer panoramic views of the bay with the zigzag profile of the mountains of the Basque country in the far distance. As the sun is about to sink beyond the horizon into the sea, people gather on the terrace with evident pleasure on their faces. On their left is the curved plane with an empty cavity like a large empty eye gazing into the sky above, interrogating what cannot be fathomed. In front of them there is an undulating paved surface leading down to the sea far below. Inside-out, between sky and the earth, the building is set below, on and above the earth. This feature provides an exhibition area to celebrate the surfer’s paradise of waves for which Biarritz is renowned. It also creates a crystal ball-like configuration with suspended bridge and staircases inside. This architectural invention will encourage the minds of generations to reflect on measured and known dimensions as much as on the immeasurable, unknown organic and inorganic depth of the ocean. Of...

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