blog post photo
Image © Iwan Baan

More than six years in the making, a museum devoted to surfing and the sea opens to the public Sunday, June 26 in Biarritz, France—a coastal city and surfing hub bordering the Atlantic Ocean. American architect Steven Holl—himself a surfing aficionado—proposed the winning design with Brazilian artist Solange Fabião in 2005.

The 50,859-square-foot Cité de l'Océan et du Surf museum is built of concrete and is shaped like a half-pipe—a nod to the long-established association between surfing and skateboarding. The entrance is flanked with film projections against nearly vertical ramps. With a mostly underground interior, the museum is phenomenological in conception, designed to make visitors feel as though they are underwater.  The exhibition space is painted a monochromatic white, and the rounded ceiling sags toward the floor.

With an ocean view in the horizon, the exterior of the museum features a rooftop plaza and two “glass boulders” that house an upscale restaurant and “surfers’ kiosk.” Portuguese cobblestones—with spaces for vegetation to grow in—cover the ground of the plaza, which has both a sheltered outdoor porch and a skating pool.

Steven Holl Architects has designed three other museums in Europe, including the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinki, Finland; the Herning Museum of Contemporary Art in Denmark; and the Knut Hamsun Center in Hamarøy, Norway.

blog post photo
Image © Iwan Baan

blog post photo
Image © Iwan Baan

blog post photo
Image © Iwan Baan