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Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Utopia/Dystopia by the Sea



Fifty High Seasons by Shane Lynam is a rather beautiful book filled with beautiful images of French Mediterranean resort architecture of Languedoc. 

 This is what the introductory text to the book reads.

In 1963 President de Gaulle initiated a regional development plan know as ‘Mission Racine', to develop a wild and windy stretch of French coastline between Montpellier and Perpignan into a series of resorts.


Avant-garde architects were hired to construct unique and unusual spaces which would be responsive to the local environment and focused on the individual. Although the project provided a new source of income locally, Mission Racine was not only about enriching the region. It included an 18% quota of social housing to allow more French citizens to take advantage of their time off work.




It would become an alternative to the expensive Cote d’Azur without the high rise excesses of similar developments further south in Spain. Fifty High Seasons reflects on the cumulative effect of half a century of tourism on the innovative built environment established by Mission Racine, while showing why I fell for its unique charm.



I'm not sure I fall entirely for its charm. My favourite place in the UK is the Gower Peninsula a) because it's really beautiful and wild looking b) it's two hours from our house c) it's really beautiful and wild looking.

You can go to Rhossili Bay on the hottest bank holiday and you will always be able to find an empty stretch of sand. The southern hordes go to Cornwall because they don't like Wales (it's a foreign country that doesn't respect their snobberies) and so you end up with a place that is relatively empty.


It's also relatively under-developed. There are no high rise resort hotels, no waterparks or theme parks. It's empty and I like it that way.




So when I look at the Mission Racine constructions, I stare with a mix of horror and awe. The buildings are futuristic in the way only 1960s buildings can be, space age in a time when powdered orange juice and dehydrated mashed potato were the future - in Britain at least.

It's a nightmare world of beached liners, lifeguard stations transposed from Miami Beach, Father Ted caravan holiday dystopias, and pampas grass key parties.

It's the future, and it's the past. It's De Gaulle's seaside sublime, organised, seaside statist fun for all the French family. It looks terrible and it looks great, an addition to the catalogue of  recent books on European architectural coastal misadventure by the likes of Txema Salvans, and  Ricardo Cases.




It's the future, and it's the past. It's De Gaulle's seaside sublime, organised, seaside statist fun for all the French family. It looks terrible and it looks great, an addition to the catalogue of  recent books on European architectural coastal misadventure by the likes of Txema Salvans, and  Ricardo Cases.


Buy the book Here 




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