La Grande-Motte : Terre d'architecture

La Grande-Motte, chichi, darling, fritters? Certainly, but not that! Since 2010, after obtaining the label Heritage of the 20th century, the city, located a few cables from Montpellier, long subject of sweet jokes such as "Sarcelle-sur-mer" or "La Grande-Moche" ashes. A land of architecture to rediscover as soon as possible.

In 1963, in full Trente Glorious, General de Gaulle launched a crazy idea: to bring out the inhospitable marshes of Camargue, on 180 kilometers of coast, six new towns - one of which will not see the day - separated by natural areas.
It was then that the emergence of a leisure company, the introduction of paid holidays and, more generally, the increase in purchasing power, began. This large-scale seaside project and pleasure boat aims to avoid the massive departure of French tourists on the French Riviera or abroad, especially on the Spanish Costa Brava. Pierre Racine, who gave his name to the eponymous Mission, was supported by a team of architects appointed by the then Minister of Construction, Pierre Sudreau, without a call for tender. Georges Candilis will realize Port Leucate and Port Barcarès; Jean Lecouteur The Cap d'Agde; Raymond Gleize and Edouard Hartané Gruissan; And Jean Balladur, who was the pilot station of the program: La Grande-Motte, whose name comes from the dune that previously occupied the area. "Jean Balladur was not privileged because the site was rotten", Judge Richard Felices, said Ricardo, former director of the Palais des congrès and "memory alive" of this city that he knew since its creation.


Jean Balladur - who is not Edouard's cousin, contrary to popular belief - then calls for seven city planners, chosen by cronyism. But before sketching the plans of this creation ex nihilo, He decides to leave the country. It will be a quasi-initiatory journey. He discovers Mexico and its pyramids, Teotihuacán in particular; And Brazil, with the city - also new - of Brasilia, created from scratch by Oscar Niemeyer. We thus find at the Grande-Motte a Place of the three powers, winking eye to the eponymous surface of the Brazilian capital. The face of the city today owes much to these peregrinations, and more generally to humanistic ideas and the rejection of Modernism by its architect, former student of Jean-Paul Sartre. "Contemporary architecture has so far been content to realize - and I do not want to draw it - rectangular parallelepipeds with a very dry and very cold modenature of horizontal and vertical", Delivered the designer. When Ricardo asks him at the end of his life about his vision of Le Corbusier, he delivers "Le Corbusier was an architect from within, I an architect from outside! " Thus, unlike the projects realized by the master of Modernism, Jean Balladur did not take care of the interior design of the houses - mostly T2 - and did not realize any furniture, At the heart of imagining a place of life on a human scale, thanks to a careful study of the dimensions of port quays - created here for 1 000 ships -, and places of villages or summer cities. Although he is today the official ambassador of this Mediterranean seafront town, some sixty architects of his knowledge have actually participated. Indeed, the specifications stipulated that it could not realize more 30% of the buildings and had to delegate the remaining percentage. It will remain below this quota and will be content to design the buildings near the port. To choose the participating confreres: once again, no call for tender necessary. Finally, the contract between Jean Balladur and La Grande-Motte will only end in 1992!


A monumental construction site then entered 1964. First step: drying out the mosquito-infested marshes for two years, digging the port with the dykes completed in 1966, and drawing the urban plan that will govern this area of ​​1 200 hectares virgin of all buildings. This is followed by the construction of the buildings, with the titanic rhythm of 200 housing a week - for a total objective of 110 000 beds. Four years after the founding shovel, the first holidaymakers arrive in August 1968, and the inhabitants settle in the pyramids inspired by Mayan architecture, of which 80% have sea views. A master plan of genius therefore, where the cars Are relegated to the entrance of the city covered on 70% of its surface by plants. One can thus largely imagine that at its delivery, the place had little to do with the place of today bathed of luxuriant vegetation.

"The Languedoc-Rousillon is a strictly horizontal zone, with the sea at its end. It seemed to me (...) that a pyramidal profile, because it ensures a continuous movement of the ground to the building, recreates an artificial relief, which associates much better with a site of a horizontal landscape than For example a vertical tower which has an aggressive side and which is a break with the horizontal of the ground. " Jean Balladur, architect of La Grande-Motte

To compose the new skyline Of the coastal city, the architect imagines four quarters that will be built on 20 years, with a specific modenature for each one: the Levant In the city center, known as the "male quarter", symbol of manhood; the sunset Called the "feminine quarter," all in roundness, disposed in front of the ocean; the Ponant, Ecological sanctuary oriented on the pond of the same name; and the Zero point, The first construction zone, bringing together social, economic and institutional living spaces. The massiveness of concrete used for the structure of buildings, like Brasilia, is broken by the varied forms and shapes given to each volume - conches of Venus, bonnets of bishops, arabesques, quetzals, nose, etc. -, permitted by the inexpensive material folding to all the plastic eccentricities thanks to the realization of molds that can be reused.


In the "Grande-Moche" period, which spread from 1980 to 2005, where the city symbolized low-end mass tourism, was followed by a period of reconquest: "Grande-Mode" Investment of local councilors who mobilized for its classification in the Patrimony of the XXth century, obtained in 2010 by a jury of specialists who finally classified the whole city, not just a building, as usual.

A revenge on history for that which deserves to take back the place that is due to him in the history of the contemporary architecture.

To learn more, visit The site of La Grande-Motte

01) © Nicolas Millet - The dunes, beautiful beaches, sculpture, bird, architecture, Jean Balladur
02) © Nicolas Millet - Architecture, port, pyramids, graphism, sea, great pyramid
03) © Laurent Vilarem - Residence The Parador and its gardens
04) © Olivier Maynard - Detail of the façade of the residence Babylon
05) © e-com photos - C Baudot - Aerial view of the sunset
06) © Regis Mortier photography - Aerial view of the city center
07) © Regis Mortier photography - Aerial view of downtown pyramids
08) © Nicolas Millet - aerial view, large pyramid, architecture, greenery, vegetation, pyramid
09) © OT LGM-Nicolas Millet - Fiji, architecture, pyramid
10) © Olivier Maynard - Gardens of the Great Pyramid
11) © Nicolas Millet - Beach, architecture, sunset, dune, conches, tourist, sport, animation, volley
12) © Henri Comte - Walkers and cyclists on the Promenade des Dunes in the Quartier du Couchant
13) © Nicolas Millet - conches, paradise of the sun, architecture, vegetation, graphics, Jean Balladur, district of Couchant
14) © Nicolas Millet - greenery, sculpture, vegetation, bicycle, smooth circulation, sustainable architecture
15) © OT LGM-Karen Kruit - Reflections of the setting sun in the windows of the residence Provence
16) © OT LGM-Nicolas Millet - architecture, green, greenery, babylon graphics, pyramid
17) © Regis Mortier photography - Facade of the residence Le Poséidon
18) © Nicolas Millet - chimney, dunes, beautiful beaches, sculpture, bird, architecture, Jean Balladur

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