From Alps to Atlantic (5) La Grande- Motte, Neufert and retro futurism

La Grande Motte

As a student at Architecture School, there was a basic book for any newcomer: Architect’s data, by Ernst Neufert. It was not about a project method (even it this was somehow the meaning conveyed by its translated title to some languages), but rather about it systhematic description of the measure of things or proportions (tread + two risers= 63 or 64 cm, 44 cm as a width for a seat…). Ernst Neufert lived between 1900 and 1968, and published the first edition of his book in 1936; but in the 1986 edition (at least in Spanish) there were still some data sourced from Kaiser Wilhelm Institute.

Sure, the average size of a person has not changed so much (and this is the real source of the data), but some constructive or design solutions in the book seem today largely over. Minimal bathrooms with a sink on the ground to allow an use as an overall shower, or stairs with an incredible steps distribution to reduce the use of space show that the pre-war Germany had a substantial housing problem. As much as many other countries that today are (nominally) much better; they also make me think if Neufert could have a second life in what we now call emergent countries, where that housing problem is clearly present.

La Grande Motte has something of that. It is a tourism magnet quite different from other Mediterranean sites as Benidorm, based on a sort of urbanism “laissez faire”. Here, as a part of a wider scheme including the eradication of mosquitoes from the Languedoc coastal lagoons and a state policy for the touristical promotion of the area, a tourism hub was built with architectures quite futuristic for the moment. Buildings are still surprising (which is not always beautiful), but when you get close you see some things too small or far from our current comfort standards. It is nearly retro futurism; from that viewpoint, it is not that far from Benidorm, where skyscrapers from past decades are still there, clearly obsolescent, but portraying a vision of the future that is more anarchical yet more powerful. Not still at the level of lower Manhattan (the only historical district I know with a substantial bunch of 100 m buildings), but not far.

But La Grande Motte is not really the same thing. The large part of the open spaces, both public and private (do not be fooled by large landscaped parkings), with lower densities than Benidorm, and the idea of closed community coming from such a constrained site (a perfect place for a Truman Show a la française) make the relation with water and presence on landscape different… on an European scale, as some images are not that far from Florida.

plu Grande Motte



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