Domus Summer

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Mediterranean hotels: timeless classics and overlooked gems from the 1960s

As mass tourism rapidly rises, millions of people settle by the shoreline, or at least they do so for a few weeks every year. From the Domus archives, a selection of the best architectures designed for them.

In 1953, Jacques Tati directs a movie about Monseiur Hulot’s holidays in a little village on the coast of Brittany, whose protagonist couldn’t anticipate how many people would follow his path just a few years later. Over three decades, from the 1950s to the 1970s, the shores of Italy, France, Spain and several other Mediterranean countries, are urbanized at an hectic pace, equaled only by the outskirts of the metropolis of their inland.

Modes and times of this growth are specific to each country, but millions of houses are built pretty much everywhere, to host as many holidaymakers, which can finally afford the luxury of a summer by the sea. Private promoters and public planners compete over unspoiled stretches of coastlines, available to build isolated houses, or less so, little and grand hotels, new towns and resorts.

Modern and late modern seaside architecture draws inspiration from models issued from other places. They are adapted and reinvented in order to settle in their new location, the coast. The latter is forever associated to the freedom of holidays, which makes it quintessentially “exotic”, even when it becomes familiar.

No one has expressed this oxymoron better than Lu Colombo. In 1985 the Italian singer falls in love on the shores of the Adriatic Sea, to her greatest surprise, and she observes: “Rimini, this sea air is indeed a foreign one. Rimini, Eastern Italy does look like Africa”.

Gio Ponti, Hotel Parco dei Principi, Sorrento, Italy, 1962. From Domus 415, June 1964
Gio Ponti, Hotel Parco dei Principi, Sorrento, Italy, 1962. From Domus 415, June 1964

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