A place that is conducive to daydreams and travel…
A firm favourite Admire the view from the church bell tower.
An absolute must : Explore the canals of Port Grimaud
on board an electric boat or water taxi.
A real bonus : A city without cars
In the beginning, a swamp
Port-Grimaud spreads over an area that was once made up of marshland and the alluvial plain of La Giscle. At the time, this area was only used for farming and hunting. The development of tourism on the coast only began in the 1960s.
It is now fifty years since planning permission was given to build Port Grimaud. Who was the designer? A visionary architect from the Alsace region, who dreamt up this modern-day, lakeside city.
François Spoerry was a fan of gentle architect; that is to say he was opposed to the large, regular-shaped, rectilinear structures that were popular at that time. And so Port-Grimaud was born with its wonderful sense of space and mid-rise buildings, redolent of Provence, in keeping with the existing, surrounding buildings.
In 1964 the architect François Spoerry, bought the land to build what every sailor dreams of – a house with a boat moored at the bottom of the garden. Once he had decided that, he imagined a village where the land and the sea would meet.
He chose traditional architecture which he found more “gentle” than other big property development projects of the period. He proposed typical Provençal style houses to which he added other Mediterranean influences.
And then, you have the colours. Subtle, colourful shades, blending with the azure blue of the Mediterranean sea, , gleaming in the sun. The basic concept – which was revolutionary in the field of coastal design – is that of a village where land and sea are intertwined.
Port Grimaud, which comprises Provençal-style houses and Mediterranean influenced architecture, is a seaside dream-turned-reality. Canals criss-cross the town, traffic is controlled and each house has its own mooring. The architect’s goal was to create a new type of city, somewhere that was pleasant to live, with a range of amenities for residents.
It’s a gem of a place, ideal for exploring on foot or by boat.
Sometimes copied, but never equalled, the “lagoon city” of Port-Grimaud is a great architectural triumph. This flamboyant, fifty year old town hasn’t aged a day and certainly deserved to be included on the list of France’s “20th century Heritage” sites in 2002.
While you’re here, there are a number of features you really must see. As well as visiting the church of Saint Francis of Assisi and making that inevitable boat trip, take the time to observe:
The picturesque landscapes
Some façades have trompe-l’oeils, some simple architectural motifs (columns, oculi, capitals), or statues or figures such as this Provençal woman leaning from her balcony on the Place du Marché (market square).
There are also a series of ‘calades’ on this square – decorative arrangements of pebbles laid in the ground. They evoke the type of local business or shops they are in front of.
Place du 14 juin
This square, situated in the first part of Port-Grimaud, was named as a reminder of the date of the building permit for the lakeside city. Getting approval had been a difficult process because there was a lot of strong opposition to the project.
Place François Spoerry and the Fontaine Magistrale (at Port-Grimaud 2)
The buildings on this square have beautiful blue and white ceramic decorations. The monumental fountain, decorated with Azulejos glazed tiles bears a portrait of the founder of Port-Grimaud.
This lakeside town, an example of architectural achievement, was certified ‘20th-century heritage’ by the Ministry of Culture in 2002.