Villa Arson, Terraces

Villa Arson

“It seemed to me a good idea to preserve the site and the greenery rather than the old buildings, whose spirit could be re-created with new buildings […]. So I simply raised the existing terraces by approximately 5 meters so as to house the studios and preserve the shady part of the garden for recreational purposes.[…] Because the project was so vast it seemed to me that one had to respect the site rather than the historical monument” (Michel Marot, letter from February 18, 1965). The descending slope of the hill generated a succession of levels and terraces. While highlighting the topography, the architectural ensemble is deployed horizontally, imitating the arrangement in steps of the old gardens. The terraces thus appear to be a major element, but not just for aesthetic reasons. Michel Marot also considered it to be an educational project: “this is not the typical geometrical and closed space of all those “silo” shaped schools whose main concern is not teaching art”, there is no “criminal verticality”

These elevations show perfectly the horizontal deployment of the architecture, which follows the slope in the same way as the original terraced gardens. « I wanted to make the constructions disappear in the greenery, so I decided to spread them out like a lizard in the sun.” (Michel Marot).

Elevation without the landscaping

The construction of the west side is well under way, the east side does not exist yet, and is taken up by storage and the construction site.
The two sides are separated by the great hall, by building 3 and by the central street which traverses building 4 from north to south.

In the foreground the dark volumes are elements from the coffered ceilings that can be seen in almost all the rooms of the Villa Arson.
On the right is the maze which was inspired by antique ruins. For Michel Marot, this maze “develops the secret” and “creates a feeling of belonging for both student and teacher”.

The terrace is being waterproofed before tiling.
The cubic shapes in the foreground are skylights that each have a blade in the middle to diffuse the light. Diamond shaped skylights called “pyramidions” will be installed on top.

The terrace is being waterproofed before tiling.
The cubic shapes in the foreground are skylights that each have a blade in the middle to diffuse the light. Diamond shaped skylights called “pyramidions” will be installed on top.

Terraces of building 5 and building 4 façade

Waterproofing before tiling.
In the middle, the rough concrete volumes create a maze on the terraces. In the background one can see the tiers of one of the open air amphitheaters.
The eastern part of the domain is being used as a work site before the rest of the buildings are raised on the entire width of the hill.

Terraces of building 4, looking to the south — west

The panels were made by hand on the floor in a wooden form, then they were raised and placed onto the structure.

On the right, the east side of building 4.
Two workers are preparing the concrete formwork for the beams of the future scenography studio at the south-east end of building 4. The diagonal beams laid out in the shape of a star accompany the penetration of light inside the space and support the corner amphitheater situated on the middle terraces.

In the foreground, one can see the south part of the pediments of the old Villa.
Inspired by the original pediments, they were made of poured concrete. The exterior side was coated and painted, the interior side remained exposed after removal of the formwork.
An attic was added which was used as a studio by the director of the institution. Today it houses the offices of the administration.

The terraces of building 3 ans 4 offer panoramic views over the hills, the city and the sea. Huge parasol pine trees that were preserved alongside the buildings overlook the scene.

In the background the south facade of building 4 evokes a fortress with its massive aspect and its crenelated top.
This feeling is also present on the east and west facades of the domain. The windows are sheltered in vertical recesses, testifying to the special care with which Michel Marot dealt with mastering light, both for composing the volumes and making the place habitable.

Beginning of the setting of the Veronico tiles on the terrace of building 5.

Laying Veronico tiles, terrace of building 5

Finished Veronico tiling on the terrace of building 5.

The old Villa is crowned with pediments inspired by the original pediments but made of exposed concrete. Level +1 of the old Villa communicates with the terraces surrounding it by passageways on the north and south sides and by doors on the east and west sides.

Upper terraces on the roofs of building 3

In the foreground a series of rough concrete volumes with ribbed motifs create a maze.
The horizontal and rectangular blades seen on top diffuse the light from the skylights encased within each volume.
In the background an open air pyramidal construction, directly inspired by Egyptian mastabas, allows for the passage of light on the level below.
At the end, the external walls of the terrace include windows that are inspired by industrial sawtooth roofs and also provide light for the level below.

The “pyramidions” at the bottom of the ribbed concrete structures give light to the lower level. The horizontal rectangular blades receive and reflect the light from the south.

On the right, the east of building 4 is almost finished. In the background, the outdoor corner amphitheater covers the scenography studio.

Upper terraces adjoining the old Villa: the low walls of the garden are built over the roofing of the upper terrace which will be prolonged towards the east.

In the foreground is the upper terrace around the old Villa, in the background are the terraces of building 4, called middle terraces and divided by the main street leading to the studios. The street has been partly covered by a passage that shelters it and allows for rambling around the hanging gardens.

Roof opening before the installation of the skylights.
In the background two beveled towers emerge from the lower-level. They conceal the chimneys from the ceramics studio.

On the left a stairway leads to the lower-level which houses the school.
On the right, two beveled towers emerge from the lower-level. They conceal the chimneys from the ceramics studio. In the background, is the old Villa with the added attic level.

One can see the volumes rising and gradually encasing the old Villa in the new architecture.
The wells of light on the ground have not yet been equipped with the pyramid shaped roof lights illuminating the studios of the school on the level below.

Terraces on the roofs of building 4 looking to the north — west.
On the left, the cubic shapes create a maze in the middle of the hanging gardens.
Just like the rest of the building, the construction bears the traces of the veins and knots in the wooden planks used for the form-work.

General view of building 4, which is channeled by the preserved parasol pine trees and cypresses.

The Phoenix, the emblem of the Arson family, overlooks the domain that Marot compared to a “lizard looking towards the sea”.

The three outdoor amphitheaters, standing at the bow looking towards the sea, evoke the Greek exedras.

The north – west terrace of building 3 covers part of the exhibition spaces which receive light through windows that were inspired by industrial sawtooth roofs. Several patios also give light to the galleries.

In the foreground the railing includes the regularly spaced tops of the pillars that divide the plant boxes. These volumes juxtapose stone veneer and rough concrete with traces of veins and knots from the wooden planks used for the form-work.

Looking south — east from the upper terrace onto the terraces of building 4

The skylights are topped with diamond shaped “pyramidions”. Two beveled towers emerge from the lower-level. They conceal the chimneys of the ceramics studio.

The skylights are topped with diamond shaped “pyramidions”.
This side was supposed to include a large basin reflecting the sky to evoke the presence of the distant sea. Because water was never put in, the concrete cracked. A hanging garden replaced the project.

On the foreground, the skylights are topped with diamond shaped “pyramidions”. This side was supposed to include a large basin reflecting the sky to evoke the presence of the distant sea. Because water was never put in, a hanging garden replaced the project.

Outdoor amphitheater, end of the middle terrace, east side

Outdoor amphitheater, end of the middle terrace, west side

View of the three outdoor amphitheaters at the end of the middle terraces. The windows of the volume in the middle bring light to the lower-level.

Terraces of building 4, the three outdoor amphitheaters, standing at the bow looking towards the sea, evoke the Greek exedras.

The cubic shapes create a maze in the middle of the hanging gardens. Just like the rest of the building, the construction bears the traces of the veins and knots in the wooden planks used for the form-work.

One can see the semi-covered aspect of the central street leading to the studios of the art school following a north-south axis.
On the level above, the access to the terraces follows the progression of the central street and shelters it at the same time. Perpendicular passageways allow for exploring the hanging gardens through a complex arrangement of paths.
The play between the volumes, the textures and the controlled light is typical of the entire domain. On the right, two towers conceal the chimneys of the ceramic studio and rise to the level above.

When he drew his plans, Michel Marot was inspired by Mediterranean villages. He created narrow streets, public squares, meeting places, outdoor amphitheaters, mazes. Here we can see the central street leading to the studios of the art school.

The students posing in the photograph give an indication of the scale. On top of the complex arrangement of the volumes, the labyrinth-like character of the architecture comes from the fact that there are almost always several ways of accessing one same spot.

In the foreground the parapet at the edge of the terraces includes windows which provide daylight for the studios below.
The passage going down is the continuation on the west side of the central street which traverses building 4 higher up.

A series of ribbed, rough concrete volumes create a maze.

Called “auditorium alley” this passage separates buildings 3 and 4.
The footbridges give access to the roof terraces of building 4.
On the left overhanging planters crown the façade of building 3.
This arrangement creates an aerial atmosphere in this monumental passageway and allows for circulating in the shade.

Main access to the terraces of building 4, in line with the great hall of building 3. As the passage progresses towards the south, it turns off, divides up, offering a variety of narrower paths.

In the center of the photograph, Michel Marot has played with interrupting the volumes to design a line made of empty spaces and full spaces. This discrete gap structures the composition and separates the west and east bodies of the building which were built successively.

Looking south from the upper terrace onto the terraces of building 4

Labyrinth, antique ruin, futuristic vessel, modern fortress: all this has been said of Michel Marot's oeuvre by its many commentators.

South – west open-air amphitheater at the bow of the building's terraces. Choreographers, dancers and performers often use the sloping wall in their scenography.

The tops of the façade walls are crenelated horizontally, which matches the rhythm of the tiers that the stroller has to walk up to fully enjoy the view towards the city and the sea. When the stroller turns around, he/she faces the stage, which is full south, and the perspective of the terraces all the way to the red façade of the old Villa.

Rehearsing a play in the south – east open air amphitheater. The half closed volume at the center of the image is a dressing room or a backstage for the artists.

The positioning of the low walls on the terraces guide the stroller along a variety of pathways conducive to contemplation.

The diversity of the volumes, the alternating of textures, the use of the greenery, give a bountiful aspect to the ensemble which is organized along strong directing lines.

The strong contrasts on this photograph accentuate the composition of the volumes.
The old Villa is another version of the repertoire of parallelepipeds it is mounted on, and its raised roof echoes the pyramid-like forms on the terraces. The architect succeeded in creating a symbiosis between the old and the new.

The chiseled volumes, spread out in the greenery, and the variety of juxtaposed textures give a certain elegance to the whole.

Before one even distinguishes the architecture underneath, one can see how, in accordance with Michel Marot's project, the greenery determines the layout of the buildings.

A “mere” raising of the original gardens, the hanging gardens are a combination of stones and greenery.

Credits: Story

Direction
Jean-Pierre Simon

In charge of the project
Cédric Moris Kelly

Legal issues
Alain Avena

Digitalization
Under the guidance of Patrick Aubouin

Editorial staff
Patrick Aubouin
Cédric Moris Kelly

Translation
Claire Bernstein

Data entry in Google Cultural Institute interface
Cédric Moris Kelly

Digitalization of spaces by Google Street View team was made possible thanks to the mobilization of Villa Arson technical teams:

Reception, monitoring and maintenance
Joël Jauny

Reception, monitoring & accommodation
Isabelle Clausse
Dave Dhurmajee
Marlène Lebrusq
Jean-Pierre Vitry

Technical / Buildings staff
Jean-Paul Carpentier
Gérard Maria
Pascal Rigaux
Michel Serve

Gardens
Patrice Lorho
Pascal Pujol
Kévin Serviole

Thanks to Michel Marot for the graceful authorization to use the archives collection Marot Tremblot Architecture (MTA)

With the support of the French Ministry of Culture and Communication and the Google Street View and Google Cultural Institute teams

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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