Situated on the Mediterranean port of Agde, France, the eclectic Laurens castle holds a history as rich as its architecture. Emmanuel Laurens, owner and architect of the villa, gathered inspiration from countries all over the world to create his masterpiece. Photographer Romain Veillon visited the castle ahead of its renovation and captured the architectural collages present inside it.
Emmanuel Laurens inherited a fortune from a wealthy distant cousin, who was a baron. Shortly following his cousin's death, Laurens' father passed away as well, leaving him with the site the project was built on.
Although he was not an architect, he drew the plans of the villa himself. His designs took a lot of inspiration from the new trend of Art Nouveau at the time, but also saw hints of Orientalism and neo-Greek designs. He wanted his castle to be an artistic masterpiece, where architecture, landscape, the surrounding scenery, the furniture, and the art of living are combined together.
As he was an avid traveler, each room's design was linked to one of his journeys abroad; a Japanese hall, an Italian patio, a Moorish entrance... Artists such as Eugène Dufour, Léon Cauvy, and Eugène Simas, who were members of the Art Nouveau movement, took part in decorating and ornamenting the villa. The villa's music lounge, which was built for his opera-singing wife, had a grand dome that highlighted the beauty of her voice. However, his expensive lifestyle and hazardous investments reduced his fortune, forcing him to sell the castle in an annuity sale in 1938.
During the Second World War, the castle was occupied by the Nazi army. The army also took part in decorating the house, adding graphics and symbols on its walls. According to some historians, Emmanuel Laurens decided to sink his furniture in the lake rather than letting the Germans seize it.
Stormy weather and time took a toll on the castle. In 1994, it was bought by the city hall of Agde. Shortly after, the community of the “Hérault Méditerranée Occitanie” decided to renovate it completely, giving a chance for public to visit towards the end of 2020.
Source: Romain Veillon