“This project embodies the meeting of the Pyrenees and the beaches of the Landes, of the mountain and of the sand, of the earth and of the sea” explains Martin Duplantier. At Anglet, in the Basque Country, Debarre Duplantiers Associés has created a new urban and landscape development project for the Chambre d’Amour and the Promenade des Sources. The site is an exceptional one. To the left, the Lighthouse of Biarritz, proud and soaring, while to the right the impressive cliffs create a panorama that stretches from neighboring Spain to the Arcachon Basin. The area is known for its beauty and its landscape, but also for the presence of an incongruous pyramid-shaped hotel dating from the golden age of mass-tourism.
At the heart of the Bayonne-Anglet-Biarritz agglomeration (or simply BAB, for short), the site offers a true breath of fresh air. The conurbation, limited by rocky outcrops and a steep change in grade, has had some difficulty in stretching itself all the way to the ocean side in the past. Hence, the location only achieved popularity amongst the surfer community. After riding the waves all afternoon, they would often welcome the coming nightfall with picnics in the back of their Volkswagen campers. With a general disregard for the traces they left on the beach, the area gradually accumulated litter, damaging the fragile seaside ecosystem.
The Town of Anglet therefore launched a vast redevelopment project. “During the design competition we proposed the development of a resilient concept that accepts the tricky nature of the coastline. We have imagined a design response that channels the flow of people while limiting development and maximising natural space” explains Martin Duplantier. Photos of the site before the transformation attest to a miserable situation where asphalt was so engulfing that not even the slightest of weeds could grow. Given this situation, it was crucial to imagine the creation of a master-planned landscape. In other words, the trick was to put in place a means of controlling the impact of humans on the site while maintaining its accessibility.
“There’s nothing like using the car to stop car culture” the architect says, smiling. The design created by the firm aspires to organise parking more efficiently while dissuading visitors from bringing their cars to the site in the first place. “We have succeeded in offering the same number of parking spaces into the project while reducing the total amount of roadways and paved surfaces” he indicates. Simply put, the solution provides order and nature in a project that embodies, with subtlety, the tensions between “the organic and the orthogonal, between straight line and curved, between rock and concrete.
“We have constantly worked to frame that which is nature” states the architect. In fact, this delicate intervention calls for both contemplation and the awareness of the fragility of this natural zone. Because of their unregulated use over the previous decades, the cliffs have fallen victim to serious erosion. The proposed developments will prevent any risk of future damage. “In the upper portion of the site we have created a belvedere, in the middle of which we have placed a ‘water table’. Symbolically, this fountain marks the origin of a stream which snakes along the promenade until it reaches the beach. We imagined a pedestrian path that is marked by the sound of running water. We have punctuated this route with concrete troughs that are fed by the springs that emerge here and there. All of the water produced by the cliffs has been channelled in this manner to avoid any further erosion” Martin Duplantier points out. More than just a development project, the firm has delivered a sensible, ecologically sound design approach to the site.