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THE BIG WAVE
June 24, 2011

Cité de l'Océan et du Surf Biarritz Steven HollThe opening of the Cité de l'Océan et du Surf, a museum dedicated to the knowledge of the oceans designed by Steven Holl in collaboration with Solange Fabião, will take place tomorrow in Biarritz.

It has been 50 years since surf boards rode the waves for the first time in Europe. Since then, Biarritz has become a major European centre for this sport, and now the most famous seaside resort on the French Atlantic coast has decided to celebrate the event with a series of initiatives. The most important of these is the realization and completion of this project. It is a fully interactive museum space, designed to create a greater respect for the oceans through a better understanding.

There will also be scientific ties with surfing such as the study of hydrodynamics. Visitors can also experience the thrill of entering into large tubes that simulate the water tunnel made legendary by the filming of John Milius in his film masterpiece, Big Wednesday.

In the words of Steven Holl, his first building in France the Cité de l'Océan et du Surf, will consist of a concave square "sous le ciel" (under the sky) that starts from the waves by the beach of Ilbarritz and arrives at the museum's convex ceilings "sous l'océan" (under the sea).



Cité de l'Océan et du Surf, Biarritz
Francesco Bartolozzi *

Cité de l'Océan et du Surf Biarritz Steven HollThe new Cité de l'Océan et du Surf in Biarritz, France, designed by Steven Holl Architects, will open to the public on June 25th. The inaugural ceremony will be attended by the American architect Steven Holl and artist Solange Fabião, who collaborated on the design of the building, as well as the Mayor and several international guests.

The project was the winning entry of a competition organized by the City of Biarritz in 2005. Initially placed on a hold for several years, the project was completed after a two-year construction phase that began in 2009. To the credit of the architect and his team, the completed work remains true to the original design as developed in numerous drawings and model images published over time.

Cité de l'Océan et du Surf Biarritz Steven HollBased on the concept “under the sky, under the sea”, the concave exterior museum surface forms an elevated public space, “under the sky”, for the gathering of visitors, with direct views overlooking the ocean.  Inside, under the convex surface animated by digital projections, an underground exhibition space can be accessed from the lobby above it via a descending staircase. As one descends, the light to shadow progression evokes the feeling of immerging under water.  

As a part of the exhibition, the large open space will host a series of sculpted and faceted pavilions, also designed by the architect. Visitors may enter and circulate around the rock like volumes along the exhibition path. The exterior plaza, gently sloped towards the ocean and covered in Portuguese cobblestones and grass, is also activated by two glass volumes containing a cafe, restaurant and surf kiosk, mirroring the two large boulders emerging from the water in the distance. The delicate curtain wall  is based on a thin steel backup system with alternating large clear insulated glass units and translucent Okalux units for light diffusion and high thermal performance, which also peculiarly capture  the red-orange glow of the Biarritz sunsets.

Continuing the profile of the plaza, a strip of landscape projects towards the beach with slightly cupped edges and connects the museum to the ocean, integrating its volume into the topography and surroundings while amplifying its public dimension.


* Francesco Bartolozzi works and lives in New York, where he collaborated with Steven Holl Architects for five years on several internationally recognized projects, among which, the Cité de l'Océan et du Surf in Biarritz



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