Location: Landes, France
Client: Conseil General des Landes and Commune de Soorts-Hossegor
Quantity Surveyor: Bougon
Contractors: Eiffage Construction (Main contractor), Structure Bois Larrieu Production (Decking, timber cladding), SMAC (Waterproofing), Miroiterie Cote Basque (Joinery -exterior), Alain Bubola (Interior walls), Metal 40 (Metalwork), Atrium (Joinery – interior, false ceiling), Lassalle François et Fils (Surfaces), Lesca Peintures (Paintwork), Lamazouade (Plumbing, heating, ventilation), SEFTI (Electrician), AFT Equipements (Kitchen)
Project Area: 715 sqm
Project Year: 2007-2010
Photographs: Vincent Monthiers
“‘Ganivelles’ are the open fences made of wire and thin batons of chestnut wood which are used by the sea to protect sand dunes from the wind, from people, and to enclose the fragile plant life growing there (honeysuckle, clematis, beachgrass…). In their shelter the soil can re-establish and a community of plants take root, each contributing something; there are no ‘weeds’ here! The tough, the ephemeral, the prolific, from hardy to tender, large and small, the pretty and the not so pretty, together, they let life take hold.” Michel Pomarède and Odile Reboul
As you travel along the Atlantic coast, you often see these dense alignments of elongated wooden posts planted vertically in the ground. These devices are frequently parallel to the beaches or the sea. They constitute a vocabulary, an identity for the place that they protect. The lines of ‘ganivelle’ fence are the props in a fragile dunescape, which act as windbreak and anchor the sand allowing plant life to establish itself; the props that check the deterioration of the landscape. As they mark the landscape, they become the landscape. Here, beach fences on a Cyclopean scale structure a building, and protect enclosed spaces resembling petrified sandcastles, their roofs planted with beach grass.
The timbers of the project are made of chestnut, like the beach fences that run through the dunes. This wood, from sustainable sources, is left unfinished and untreated. The timbers’ dimensions and the spacing between them have been calculated to reproduce the visual effect of the dune fencing and to allow a clear view of the sea from the building’s interior. Seen from the beach, with the effect of perspective, the building blends with the landscape. In addition to this visual concern, the timbers enclose the outdoor terraces, provide structural support for the retractable sun-shading and act as a windbreak set into the sand. They create both protecting and protective exterior spaces.
The main body of the building, all at ground floor level, is set into the sand to limit the visual impact of a construction on a vista of horizons (the beach, the promenade, the ocean). The walls are body tinted concrete, finished with sand when still wet to give them the texture and colour of the beach.
From the road, a passage crosses the site separating and identifying the two programmes specified by the client (the building for the French Surfing Federation and the new gastronomic restaurant for local chef Jean Coussau), whilst maintaining the coherence and continuity of the project. This crossing is a public space giving access to the beach and creates a place to meet. The two entrances are also located here, which open directly onto the internal circulation of each building.
This circulation runs parallel with the beach along a glazed axis punctuated on one side by a patio for the Surfing Federation and on the other, a glazed roof for the restaurant. This spatial organization allows constant views outside. It also promotes natural daylight, ventilation and emphasizes the closeness of the surrounding landscape inside the building. The presence of the outside inside is accentuated by the use of materials, the fencing and the coloured and sand-finished concrete in the circulation spaces, the latter also contributing to the thermal mass of the building.
The project highlights a type of architecture of which the appearance, the materials and the function stem directly from the local vernacular. The atmosphere is calm and bathed in light. The colour palette is natural, informed by the sand, the wood and fabrics of beige and ochre.
The general design, to its advantage, has more in common with the natural horizon than a building in the classic sense of the word. It blurs and erases the defined envelope of the project, promoting instead a functional continuity, creating both conceptual and formal relationships with the site. It is a project that merges with its context, ultimately constituting a genuine “landscape-building.