February 2018

Most of the standout work of Hungarian-born architect Antti Lovag (1920 – 2014) may have been finished at least a few decades ago however, it seems to be more current than ever. 

Arriving in France in the late 1940s, and after gaining his initial experience with Jean Prouvé, Lovag began working with French architect Jacques Couëlle who together, pioneered the movement known as ‘architecture-sculpture.’

Since the 1950s, French architects including Jacques Couëlle, Jean Louis Chaneác and Pascal Hausermann – best known for his futuristic design for the Museomotel l'Utopie – had been experimenting with sculptural approaches to residential design, combining new-age technology with a type of architecture that evoked a nature-inspired lifestyle and a counterpoint against the stricter uniformity championed by Modernism.

Fittingly, the organically-shaped Maison Bernard (nicknamed Palais Bulles), originally designed as a family home for industrialist and adventurer Pierre Bernard, was Lovag’s first built project, which he completed in 1971. The building, which is perched on a rocky cliff and shaded by tropical vegetation just outside Cannes in the South of France, is an amalgamation of brightly-coloured concrete bulles (bubbles) with a continuous interior landscape and interconnecting spaces. Built-in storage systems, winding staircases and integrated seating areas lend an ample amount of freedom and a sense of surprise – reminiscent of cave dwellings. 

In 1989, French fashion designer Pierre Cardin became the second owner of the monumental residence, which paved the way for its time in the spotlight, as the backdrop for A-list parties, photo-shoots and most recently, the scene for Dior’s Resort 2016 Collection.  

After a five-year renovation by Paris-based firm Odile Decq, the house, now managed by the Maison Bernard Endowment Fund, welcomes public tours to marvel at what is considered Lovag’s most emblematic and perfectly formed achievement.

Photography © Yves Gellie for the The Maison Bernard Endowment Fund & via Pinterest