The Cité de l’Océan et du Surf, located in Biarritz, France will open to the public on June 26, 2011. The museum, a design by Steven Holl Architects in collaboration with Brazilian artist and architect Solange Fabião, aims to raise awareness of oceanic issues and scientific aspects of surf and sea.
Derived from the spatial concept “under the sky” / “under the sea”, the museum’s concave exterior creates a central gathering plaza, open to the sky and sea, with 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 experiences in the entrance space, where ramps pass along the dynamic curved surface on which filmed exhibitions are projected, animating the space with changing images and light.
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. This covered area provides a sheltered space for outdoor interaction, meetings and events.
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 precise integration of concept and topography gives the building its unique profile. The public plaza is paved with a progressive variation of Portuguese cobblestone paving that allow for the growth of grass and natural vegetation. The building lifts up toward the ocean towards the west and the concave form of the plaza is extended through the landscape. 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.