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Cite de l’Ocean et du Surf

Steven Holl Architects

Shared By

dmadsen, hanley wood, llc

Project Name

Cite de l’Ocean et du Surf

Project Status


Year Completed



3,800 sq. meters


SNC Biarritz Ocean


  • Agence d'Architecture
  • Betec & Vinci Construction Marseille
  • AVEL Acoustique
  • L'Observatoire International
  • Elithis
  • General Contractor: Faura Silva, GTM Sud-Ouest Batiment
  • Cesma
  • Geroari



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Project Description


The Cité de l’Océan et du Surf is a museum that explores both surf and sea and their role upon our leisure, science and ecology. The design by Steven Holl Architects in collaboration with Solange Fabião is the winning scheme from an international competition in 2005 that included the offices of Enric Miralles/Benedetta Tagliabue, Brochet Lajus Pueyo, Bernard Tschumi and Jean-Michel Willmotte.

The building form derives from the spatial concept “under the sky” / “under the sea.” A concave “under the sky” shape forms the character of the main exterior plaza, the “Place de l’Océan”, which is open to the sky and sea, with the horizon in the distance. A convex structural ceiling forms the “under the sea” exhibition spaces.

Two “glass boulders,” 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 building’s southwest corner is dedicated to the surfers’ hangout with a skate pool at the top 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 architecture and landscape, and connect the project to the ocean horizon. The precise integration of concept and topography gives the building its unique profile. The materials of the public plaza are a progressive variation of Portuguese cobblestone paving with grass and natural vegetation. Towards the ocean, the concave form of the building plaza is extended through the landscape. With slightly cupped edges, these gardens, a mix of field and local vegetation, are a continuation of the building and will host festivals and daily events that are integrated with the museum facilities.
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