Steven Holl: Cite de l'Ocean et du Surf in Biarritz

“En plein air” a concave sweep, enriched by folds at the edges which recall shadows of shards. “Under the sea” a floor with its white convex covering which recalls the sensation of laying in salt water, destinied to be a space for exihibitions. These two paradigms were used by Steven Holl and Solange Fabiao for the concept definition of “La Cite de l’Ocean et du Surf” in Biarritz, the new cultural complex near the Atlantic ocean. The center will be oficially inaugurated in June 2011. Crystallizing the shape of a giant wave inside a solid light coloured concrete base, the project recalls the sea world and its constant features like its discontinuos levels both flat and rough. Moreover it transforms a natural event in a complex building on two well distinguished floors: an accessable covering and a closed environment designed to host the museum rooms. The walkable summit hosts a public space where running skateboarders take the place of the more typical sufers; they climb up the parabolas and skate down along the paths marked by the pavement planks. It could be young skaters or turists longing for a new view on the Biscay bay or again a crowd collecting in occasion of events, parties and projections of movies to  walk the roof crest. The plinth-like platform respects the program required by the international competition held in the year 2005 and won by the american architect and the brasilian artist: the design of a functional space for the exposition of facts related to the ocean and surfing, but also related to science and ecology. The volume of the city museum is not unbroken: small white corps interrupt the constant surface flowing beneath the sky with vertical panels of translucent glass. The Cite de l’ocean et du Surf recalls the sensation of an urban garden, an alternative seafront and a new focus which catches both beach and horizon. And the metaphysic aspect of this empy space is soon to disappear leaving its place to new guests visiting for sport, for tourism or for relax.