The amazing PALAIS BULLES

Exterior view of Palais Bulles, Théoule-sur-Mer, France

Exterior view of Palais Bulles, Théoule-sur-Mer, France

We speak of bubbles, circles and spheres of society. There is the sphere of the arts, for example, which contains within it circles of different sizes and types: college circles, gallery circles, workplace circles. Within these are bubbles of individuals: makers, creatives and collectors. Pierre Cardin’s Palais Bulles, or ‘Bubble Palace,’ is a tangible, monumental take on the globular.

Designed by avant-garde Hungarian architect Antti Lovag and built from 1975–1989, Cardin’s 8,500 square-meter property is a life form lying sprawled in the sun of the Mediterranean coastline. The exterior of the 28 round rooms is sandy brown colored concrete, bumpy with skylights, of course also circular, scattered like lunar bulges. The skeleton of the cave-inspired villa is made of lightweight mesh and rods.

Lovag sees the straight line as “an aggression against nature”; Palais Bulles is a reminder that life is cyclical, the world is round, and good things don’t always come in boxes.
Palais Bulles plan, 1968. Felt and graphite pencil on paper. Collection Frac.

Palais Bulles plan, 1968. Felt and graphite pencil on paper. Collection Frac.

Waterfalls spill into blue pools of divine radi. The interior continues the site’s eschewal of traditional geometry, outfitting its 10 bedroom suites with round beds like blown-up pin cushions, curved bookshelves, and sphere-inspired fine and decorative works made and selected by contemporary artists.

On the Bay of Cannes and in the mountain range Massif de l’Esterel, Palais Bulles sits “between sea and sky.” The private property may be at a point of intersecting magnificence of natural phenomena, but its roofless curves and cave-like corridors, before unseen in private home architecture, are more than anything cosmic.

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Cardin is the second owner of Lovag’s creation, originally commissioned by industrialist Pierre Bernard. But the villa’s amorphous architecture seems made for Cardin, the French–Italian fashion designer known for his experimental and Space Age garments. It was his 1954 ‘bubble dress’ that brought his first internationally recognized success.

Like circles suggest clusters of people contained and in orbit, the rooms of Palais Bulles fill on occasion with the elite. Cardin’s former employer, Christian Dior, showed their Resort collection there in 2016, on a runway of turns and curves with models glimpsed through port holes. MTV chose the landmark to celebrate James Bond’s 40th birthday, and the sloping terracotta walls have served as the backdrop for more than one Cannes Film Festival after party. Until sold for its $300 million asking bid, the entire 1,200 square-meter site can be rented by the day.

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Text by Greta Rainbow.
Photography: Gaelle Le Boulicaut for Collecteurs

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