“My houses are living beings, they have a nervous system, a stomach, intestines, a heart” - Jacques Couelle
As a tribute to nature, French architect Jacques Couelle built in the 1960’s a set of houses overlooking the bay of Cannes. Commissioned by a wealthy backer, the hamlet known as Casterellas was intended to be a private village for millionaires. With severe judgement at the time, his 'cave-like' designs were passed off as nothing more than the tasteless desires of the super-rich and has only recently been recognised for the strength and formal beauty of its progressive and intuitive design.
Couelle was a self-taught architect that identified with the harmony and value found in nature, more so than the right angles and smooth surfaces that were dictated by man. Using the sun as another dimension of his architecture, he was known for capturing the light within a space. An interplay of light and shade, the shadows cast worked to impel the design, changing with the days light and offering infinite variations.
Using his instinctive and curious nature to help sculpt and reveal his taste for landscape architecture, he used the land as a starting point. The natural slope dictating the different levels inside, the curves in the facades were informed by the landscape and sun, indicating placement of the openings. At times he succeeds to also trap the untrained landscape within the house, seen brilliantly in the exteriors that are the mergence of rock and terrain.
Some imagined life inside looked stone age, the reality of course was much different. Inside there are a variety of finishes of stone, terracotta for floors, ceramics, iron and glass for the walls, wood and glass for the doors with copper detailing. A melting pot of ideas that seem to flow harmoniously as an end result.
Impactful, intuitive, modern yet monolithic, the design is at one with its surroundings, reborn every day in the morning light, merging again with the earth at night.
Photography — Christophe Coënon for AD France
Design — Jacques Couelle
Location — Casterellas le neuf, French Riviera