Museum for oceanography and surf history in Biarritz
Text: Florian Maier
'Under the sky, under the sea' is the main concept behind Steven Holl’s design for the new museum, which he worked on together with the Brazilian architect and artist Solgane Fabião.
The ‘Cité de l’Océan et du Surf’ sits near the beaches of Milady and Ilbaritz. Rising up from the ground, the wave-shaped roof construction references both the surrounding landscape and the building’s content: a new interactive museum on the habitat of the ocean and the sport of surfing.
Boldly designed ramps sweep up from the ground, merging topography and buildings into one. Glass cubes lie like boulders, which highlight the character of the building’s shape, particularly as darkness falls.
The aim is for visitors to feel like they are underwater while inside. A convex concrete ceiling lends the impression of a huge wave, leaving a striking impression on the exhibition rooms in the basement, which is connected via ramps to the entrance hall.
The ‘Cité de l’Océan et du Surf’ offers space for many different functions, acting as a museum, cultural centre, events location and restaurant. The exhibition rooms are home to explanations of scientific phenomena of the sea, while the ‘Skate Pool’, complete with veranda, and the surf kiosk act as a cultural reference point for surfers and other water-sports enthusiasts.
Museum for oceanography
A playful, educational set-up shows the origins of the world’s different oceans, how life plays out on the seabed and the many different types of animals that can be found there. Visitors can board a deep-sea submarine (a so-called ‘bathyscaphe’) and discover the secret Gulf of Capbreton with special polarised 3D glasses.
Tides, waves and currents: to get an idea of the different powers of the ocean, visitors can enter a large tube (‘The Wave’) to recreate the feeling of surfing, before venturing further to find themselves on-board a boat, which is drifting helplessly through a storm. The ocean’s legends and myths also feature at the museum: the Deluge, Atlantis and the secret of the mysterious Bermuda Triangle.
Glass construction elements
The combination of translucent glazing and transparent glass surfaces provide a light and open atmosphere inside. The translucent building envelope is comprised predominantly of panes of glass with capillary inlays from OKALUX. Insulation glass disperses daylight evenly throughout the building’s rooms, the majority of which are underground, reducing the need for artificial lighting and heat input, and lightening the building’s cooling load.
The ‘Cité de l‘Océan et du Surf’ was opened on 25 June 2011.