A Psychedelic Trip Into Architecture

February 23rd, 2005 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized

palaisbulles01I love the reverb from the net. While checking the stats for the site, I saw a hit from The Uppers Organization – Your Guide to the Modern Pleasures of Living. A quick glance and I was onto a couple of articles on psychedelic futurist architecture. Always one of my favorite subjects. To my delight I re-discovered this amazing house on the Riviera which I had the fortune of visiting back in 1991 [pictured at left]. From the moment I saw it I immediately felt at home in its warm, inviting and organic environment. Perhaps it was watching Barbarella as a kid, or reading too many futurist magazines like Omni and Future. Whatever it was, the aesthetic stuck to my brain like glue. For the life of me I could never find it again, and when the internet came along I looked for it with no luck. Of course it would help to remember the name of the place. It’s called the Palais Bulles, and you can read more about it at Uppers, or quoted later in this post.

Another article at Uppers talks about the Vasarely Foundation at Aix-en-Provence [pictured below]

vasarelyfoundation‘The whole place looks like the set of a science-fiction film of the late ’60s: a huge black and white hexagon standing out on a big lawn by a motorway at Jas de Bouffan, just outside the centre of the beautiful and relaxing Aix.

The building is formed by six hexagonal rooms, each wall displaying one enormous work of Victor Vasarely’s kinetic art, art in movement. Black and white patterns, coloured spheres and other geometrical shapes, like the infinite column, a long sculptured column set between two mirrors, giving the sense of the infinite form.

The Foundation opened in 1976 after the idea of Vasarely, who wanted to create a cultural centre, not only a museum, but a place where architects, urbanists and sociologists could discuss together, in search of new solutions for the ideal “city of tomorrow”.

The site itself was chosen by Vasarely: it was close to a motorway and car drivers travelling along could clearly perceive the sense of movement in the design of this building. Then, Jas de Bouffan had been the home of one of Vasarely’s favourite artists, the French painter Cézanne.

Vasarely’s style influenced deeply its time and brought many imitators among designers and architects. Some of his ideas have unfortunately proven utopian but his desire to integrate art into architecture and everyday life is still valid and gives his whole work a curiously contrasting sense of warmth and passion.

Fondation Vasarely
1, avenue Marcel Pagnol
Jas de Bouffan
13090 Aix-en-Provence
Tel. +33(0)4 42 20 01 09’


‘An extraterrestrial looking house made of huge concrete bubbles, sits on the Esterel hills by the the French Riviera. It is the Palais de Bulles, the Palace of Bubbles, the summer villa of Pierre Cardin. Organic architecture of a different kind is represented by the Bubble House, designed by Antti Lovag and purchased by Pierre Cardin in 1990. Illuminated by the warm sun of France’s Côte d’Azur, the design has been termed by some to be “one part house, two parts hallucination.”

Pierre Cardin has always been very sensitive to futuristic atmospheres and even his summer house reveals his passion for the future. The Palais de Bulles stretches in Port-la-Galère, near Cannes and it was built in the early ’70s after the project of the Hungarian architect Antti Lovag.

Lovag noticed that traditional habitations, like the cavern or the igloo, were round and reflected the way a human being moves in space. These houses were built “around” the human being and did not force him into rectangular spaces, like modern houses. Spheres and round surfaces reminded of the maternal uterus and avoiding any sharp edge they could prevent, according to Lovag’s theory, neurosis and violence.

Lovag, together with Hausermann and Chanéac, experimented in the ’60s a new idea of architecture based on natural forms and in the early ’70s Lovag realized his first round house, always in the South of France, for the French businessman Pierre Bernard.

The Palais de Bulles is hidden among the vegetation, and the exterior colour is brown, to make it similar to the nearby Esterel hills.’


Of course this particular house is very expensive, but there is no reason why this type of style can’t be done on the cheap. There are two institutes here in the states that are working on alternative architectures. The first one is the Monolithic Dome Institute. I discovered them in 1994 while touring this amazing house in Sedona called Xanadu. It’s still there but no longer open to the public. Here is a picture of that house.


The other is Cal Earth in Hesperia California founded by Nader Khalili. I discovered him the same year (1994) when he came to conduct an earth-fire architecture workshop at Arcosanti, where I was living at the time. Khalili’s methods are now used all over the world to bring affordable housing to people with otherwise very limited resources. Cal Earth is worth checking out. Not only is the potential cost of one of his home cheap, but they are beautiful to look at and live in, as well as being very environmentally friendly and energy efficient. Below is a picture of one them.


The house in Star Wars (similar to above) is often referred to as a Troglodyte House.

See Also:

Monolithic Domes
Ferrocement Architecture
Earthship Biotecture


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