The French Riviera: an art and architecture itinerary towards Marseille

It is a legendary tourist destination in summer more than ever: we have selected some must-see points.

For art and architecture lovers, the route across the Côte d’Azur is dotted with gems that have made the history of 20th-century architecture and art. From Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, where the summer residences of Le Corbusier and Eileen Gray sit, to Josep Lluís Sert
Maeght Foundation, from Henri Matisse’s Chapelle du Saint-Marie du Rosaire in Vence to Antti Lovag’s Palais Bulles, to the marinas, large residential buildings built since the 1960s to accommodate mass tourism. 

Eileen Gray, Le Corbusier, and the Italian impresario

In Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, not far from each other, are the modern (as well as legendary) residences of Eileen Gray and Le Corbusier, respectively Villa E-1027 (1929) and the Cabanon (1952).
In addition to these, there are also the Étoile de Mer and the villa of the Parisian architect Jean Badovici. Thomas “Robert” Rebutato, a plumber from Sanremo, worked on prototypes for cabins, inspired by traditional fishermen’s cabins, and in 1949 he opened a new building, l'Étoile de Mer, made with the same technique. It is said that Le Corbusier, guest of Badovici and Gray, set foot in the restaurant on opening day. A friendship was born between Rebutato and Le Corbusier, so much so that the spaces are decorated with the works of both of them. The Swiss-French architect, who passed away just as he was swimming in these waters, is buried in the village cemetery.

Matisse in Vence

The chapel of Saint-Marie du Rosaire was built between 1947 and 1951 by an older man, Henri Matisse, who regarded this work as one of his most notable. The small and simple structure, with an L-shaped plan and white plastered surfaces, houses a cycle of paintings by the master and his stained glass. History has it that the nurse Monique Bourgeois, who had treated Matisse in 1941 and later posed for him as a model, entered the Dominican convent of Vence in 1943. It was she who invited him to build the building: Matisse began work on the project in 1947.

The Maeght Foundation: modern art in Saint-Paul-de-Vence

Born from the friendship between Aimé and Marguerite Maeght with Josep Lluís Sert, Catalan architect, the Maeght Foundation opened its doors in 1964. The hub and meeting place of personalities such as Joan Miró, Marc Chagall, Alberto Giacometti, Georges Braque, Alexander Calder, and Fernand Léger, the structure now houses the works of this artistic community. Today it represents one of the most important collections of the 20th century.

Villeneuve-Loubet, the great marine

For those who are fascinated by the big structures of the modern and its speculations, Marina Baie des Anges is undoubtedly a place to include in the itinerary to Marseille. Born from the meeting between the designer André Minangoy and the promoter Jean Marchand, it is a continuous white body that embraces the area of the Villeneuve-Loubet port, which rises dizzyingly in four points.

Vallauris, Picasso and ceramics

The Picasso National Museum “La Guerre et la Paix” at the Château de Vallauris includes a chapel decorated by Pablo Picasso. The pictorial cycle deals with the themes of peace and war, following the path already traced with Guernica and Massacre in Korea. Painted in 1952, it gives its name to the museum. After his period in Antibes, Picasso lived in Vallauris from 1948 to 1955. In an old disused perfume factory, he devoted himself intensively to ceramics production.

Théoule-sur-Mer, Pierre Cardin’s bubbles

Built by the Hungarian architect Antti Lovag between 1975 and 1989, the Palais Bulles was commissioned by Pierre Bernard, a French industrialist. In 1992, when Bernard died, it was the designer Pierre Cardin who bought it as his summer residence. The habitologue, as the architect liked to call himself, designed spaces in the complete absence of straight lines: the result is an enveloping and sculptural environment of concrete, in earth tones. The structure includes an open-air amphitheater, ten bedrooms, swimming pools, and waterfalls, set in a vast park. In 2016, the restoration of Odile Decq had been completed and is now on the market.

A magnificent historical hotel in Saint-Tropez

Vista della facciata sud di Latitude 43. Foto Helmut Giersiefen/ via Wikicommons

Listed since 1996, the structure is a modernist gem designed by Georges-Henri Pingusson and completed in 1932. The long, white body of the Hôtel Latitude 43 seems to float between the pine forest and the sea, like a ship. And it is no coincidence: the large horizontal openings, the long corridors and the rooms reminiscent of cabins betray the inspiration of Pingusson’s marine structures, in the wake of the pressing modernity suggested by Le Corbusier in 1923, with Vers une architecture.

The Venice of Southern France

It was June 14, 1966 when permission was issued to build this curious new city: a sort of French-style Venice. It was François Spoerry, architect, developer and urban planner who designed it as a new city, breaking with the principles of the CIAM (International Congresses of Modern Architecture). Spoerry was a lover of density and the vernacular, and he brought them to this plot of land in the municipality of Grimaud. The shape is that of a city of water, where every resident has access to canals and, potentially, a boat.

Hyères, an important design hub

Commissioned by Charles and Marie-Laure de Noailles to Robert Mallet-Stevens, Villa Noailles was completed in 1927. The residence is one of the first examples of modernist rationalism in France. Enlarged several times, the villa sits in the Bay of Hyères and today represents a vital hub for the world of design. Its popularity is due, first and foremost, to the Design Parade, an annual event dedicated to interior design.

Latest on Architecture

Latest on Domus

Read more
China Germany India Mexico, Central America and Caribbean Sri Lanka Korea icon-camera close icon-comments icon-down-sm icon-download icon-facebook icon-heart icon-heart icon-next-sm icon-next icon-pinterest icon-play icon-plus icon-prev-sm icon-prev Search icon-twitter icon-views icon-instagram