Cité de l’Océan et du Surf
Steven Holl Architects
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
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 space, the "Place de l'Océan." The convex structural ceiling forms the "under the sea" exhibition spaces.
The building's spatial qualities are experienced already at the
entrance where the lobby and ramps give a broad aerial view of the
exhibition areas, as they pass along the dynamic curved surface
that is animated by moving image and light. The precise integration
of concept and topography gives the building a unique
The exterior of the building is a textured white concrete made
of aggregates from the south of France. Materials of the plaza are
a progressive variation of Portuguese cobblestones 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, the
landscape, a mix of field and local vegetation, is a continuation
of the building and will host festivals and daily events that are
integrated with the museum facilities.
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 glass boulders can be reached through the main entry
lobby, which connects the street level to the cafeteria and
surfer's kiosk, and are also accessible independently through the
plaza, which serves as a main gathering space open to the public.
An elevated outdoor terrace at the top level of the museum,
provides open ocean views.
At the building's southwest corner there is a skate pool,
dedicated to the surfers' hangout on the plaza level, and an open
porch underneath which connects to the auditorium and exhibition
spaces inside the museum. This covered area provides a sheltered
space for outdoor interaction, meetings and events.
Facts about Cité de l’Océan et du Surf
Building area: 3,800 m2
Solange Fabião, Steven Holl
Assistant project architect:
Agence d'Architecture X.Leibar
Betec & Vinci Construction Marseille
Faura Silva, GTM Sud-Ouest Batiment
SNC Biarritz Ocean
Photographed by Iwan Baan
Last updated: December 19, 2013
North Adams, Massachusetts, USA
New Haven, Connecticut, USA
Seattle, Washington, USA