L'île Degaby - Conference Centre in a Former Fortress
Degaby, an uninhabited, craggy limestone island, is 300 m off the coast of Endoume in southern France. Long known as Fort Tourville – after Admiral Tourville – it had been a defensive post of Marseille during the era of Louis XIV. In the mid-nineteenth century, the fort was enlarged. Shortly before World War I, André Laval, a wealthy industrialist from Marseille, bought the island as a gift to his wife Liane Degaby, a former dancer. She transformed it into a meeting place for the high society. For a time it was a luxury hotel, but there were also phases of decay. The fortress’s outer walls, 10 m above sea level, afford a view of the Frioul archipelago. On the northern corner of the island is a structure containing three vaulted halls and the kitchen; its two exterior facades are part of the fortification walls. The structural components were in good condition, so only floors, walls and interior woodwork had to be renovated. Because the island is not hooked up to public utilities, a generator, water recovery system, and water treatment plant were installed. The fortress is not listed as a landmark in France, so the architects were free to choose materials, but the climatic conditions and delivery only by air or by sea narrowed down the options. And so the stone available on the island was used. These objets trouvés are paired with raw steel plate, a low-maintenance material that contrasts with the verticality of the gun-ports and the timelessness of stone.