Cite de l’Ocean et du Surf Wins Award in 2011 Annual Design Review

The Cite de l’Ocean et du Surf in Biarritz, France, designed by Steven Holl Architects in collaboration with Solange Fabião, has received a Play Award in Architect’s Magazine 2011 Annual Design Review.

About the museum, juror Joe Valerio stated, “The thing that is beautiful about this is the idea that it’s about the surf. You take an architectonic form and you make it roll like the ocean, and then the function slips underneath. To connect the surf with the function underneath, you have this lantern, this white, glass lantern that runs through it.” The jury also emphasized the museum’s great quality of light, which “appears to change over the course of the day, and that the differentiated spaces reflect the notion of a wave as water suspended in air.”

Selected as winner in the Play Category, the Cité de l’Océan et du Surf, which opened on June 26, 2011, aims to raise awareness of oceanic issues and the scientific aspects of sea and surf. Derived from the spatial concept “under the sky” / “under the sea,” the museum’s concave exterior forms the character of a central public plaza, the “Place de l’Océan,” which is open to the sky and sea and looks towards the horizon in the distance. On the interior, the inverse convex curve becomes the ceiling of the main exhibition space, evoking the sense of being “under the sea.” The building’s spatial qualities are first experienced in the entrance, where light comes in along the curved surface, and reflects into the galleries below.

The gardens of the Cité de l’Océan et du Surf aim at a fusion of landscape and architecture, and connect the museum to the ocean horizon. The public plaza is paved with a progressive variation of Portuguese cobblestone paving that allows for the growth of natural vegetation. With slightly cupped edges, the landscape, a mix of field and local vegetation, is a continuation of the museum facility and provides a site for festivals and daily events.

Two “glass rocks,” which contain the restaurant and the surfer’s kiosk, activate the central outdoor plaza and connect analogically to the two great boulders on the beach in the distance. The plaza’s southwest corner is dedicated to the surfers’ hangout with a skate pool and an open porch underneath that connects to the auditorium and exhibition spaces inside the museum. The exposed structure of white concrete of the building exterior has a soft shell-like texture and white Okalux insulating glass is like the “foam of the sea.”

Earlier this year, the Cité de l’Ocean et du Surf was named Public Building of the Year by the 2011 Emirates Glass LEAF Awards.

The winners of the Annual Design Review are published in the December issue of Architect Magazine.