Port la Galere, Cannes, France
When building by the sea, the curved forms of nature are the right forms for architecture,’ says Antti Lovag of the summer house he designed and built in 1970 at Port la Galere on the Cote d’Azur near Cannes. The house, now a fine example of 1970s modernism architecture, appears both organically grown and high-tech.
There are no facades in the traditional sense, since the house is composed of curved and spherical forms upon which one is able to climb and walk about with very little effort. Since the walls, roof, doors and windows are bubble-like in appearance, this well-grounded home has gained the reputation of being extra terrestrial.
Lovag, never a fan of standard formal conventions, was born in Hungary and studied in Sweden and France. His style matured during his years of collaboration with architect-ecologist Jacques Couelle, designing organically shaped houses which merge with their seaside locations.
Lovag rebels against pure geometry and believes that architectural forms should reflect the flexibility of nature, basing his conceptions on the curves of the human body. To this end, he employs the modern technology of reinforced concrete, which permits rich variations in shape. He is perfecting the use of a ‘knit’ synthetic technique which renders concrete supple and flexible in shape. To create these sorts of spaces, he employs hundreds of curved steel strips as an armature for his structures, building them like giant plaster sculptures. Between the exterior concrete surfaces and interior concrete and stucco, these metal skeletons provide ancillary spaces for utility services, such as gas and water pipes and electrical conduits.
Inside, this house is also composed of spherical forms, reached via cylindrical corridors and oval doors. It is unclear where walls end and ceilings and floors begin. Rooms were placed, measured and modified while construction was in progress; windows were planned to make the best use of light. ‘Volumes were adjusted to the configuration of the site, and the house developed in a spontaneous manner,’ explains Lovag. ‘The entire structure represents a natural evolution.’
Maintaining the sculptural effect, most of the furniture is built in with curved banquettes and circular tables. ‘Traditional furniture of the rectilinear type is without use here,’ Lovag observes. Living, dining and kitchen spaces are on the ground floor, and a stair – reminiscent of the ribbed configurations of a snail’s shell – leads from these spaces to four bedrooms above. The marine horizon is visible through large oval and round doors and windows which evoke the appearance of portholes.
Vegetation grows over the earth-coloured masses of the house, and irregular pavers of travertine form paths which mediate between it and its seaside setting. Lovag did not wish to deform the site with traditional platform foundations, preferring to utilize the rocks as an essential element of the construction. So the house and outdoor pool follow the curves of the terrain. ‘Natural erosion creates a world of curves,’ says Lovag. ‘The house and the paths, situated in a slight hollow of a hill, seem like the furrows of the nearby cliffs. And like the cliffs and the sea, the house appears as if it has been here for centuries.’