Human Hives, cities, towns, villages whatever you wanna call em’ are always evolving and in the South of France in the Occitanie region there are some pretty cool constructions that show imagination, innovation and a lust for rejuvenation.
Let's start with this most recent and still ongoing project, the revitalized south side of Montpelier. South Park fans would recognize this as “Sodasopa”. A gentrified section of town that has been rebuilt to accommodate the desires of humans living in the 3rd decade of the 21st Century. The buildings in the area are taking back the traditions of building beautiful buildings and accommodating a new age of connectivity and environment. The architects here have incorporated, shapes, texture and form into these new age condos separating them with bike paths and sidewalks that connect to the river that leads into the heart of the city.
Sure the concept is not unique in its own right, there are countless cities all over the world doing the same thing, yet in France it’s not as common place as elsewhere in the world. There are plenty of fusion food trucks, amazing pieces of wall art, light rail connections, new age shops and cafes and arteries that connect to neighboring towns and cities by bike path. One of those places that it now connects to, is La Grande Motte…..where a super “sodasopa” summer getaway project started over 60 years ago.
La Grande Motte is a city that is situated on the Mediterranean Sea in the south of France. However 75 years ago, the city didn’t exist at all. Not one street, not one apartment building…..nothing. Just like Dubai has been building along their coast, France did something similar here in the 60’s. A summer city in the south that was all to be designed around similar concepts.
Design, shape, form, nature the theme for the planning of the city was incorporated into all aspects of its design. It really is the only way to get a city where all the buildings share so many similar traits. They build a port, let it settle and then built an entire city from scratch surrounding it.
The problem with a lot of construction in Europe is that usually somebody else has alright built there. Look at Paris, in order to undertake new building projects, demolition and deconstruction is usually the first step. As a French architect with none of those hurdles, it gives you an endless amount of possibilities when creating your master plan. Exactly like sandbox mode in a video game. Except you can actually live in the condos that you build, buy and sell here…..Oh, real world... how I love you!
I’ll let the photos do the talking.
You can see the consistency in shapes, patterns and styles of every building in town. There are no square pegs in round holes to be found…… Except for these guys who painted half the building purple! What you can also see is a tapestry of green that was woven throughout the city. It’s certainly becoming more popular in global architectural designs, but in the 60’s in France, this was well ahead of its time. Another added bonus is they did not destroy the local sand dunes. Banking on the lessons learned by neighboring towns who removed theirs and consequently found the shoreline in their living rooms, the architect wisely decided to embrace them as a part of their design. On top of this they planted an entire forest was built behind town, countless walking paths were put in place and the business of selling condos down here became a staple in the local economy.
As if this was not enough, not too far away from La Grande Motte on the opposite side of Le Grau du Roi, another just as insane mega project was built during the same era. Just like the dudes in Dubai the French architects of the day couldn’t restrain themselves from building only one mega project.
What they built here was “Port Camargue” which to this day is still the largest leisure marina in Europe and the second largest in the world. A Marina designed to give its esteemed patrons a helping hand in spending their children's inheritance money.
From the ground you can see the inter workings of waterways, docking stations, condos and greenery. An interwoven connectivity by water allowing condo owners to park their boats directly in front of their building. Impressive enough from the ground, but when you look to the sky you can truly see the enormity of the architects vision and the true scale of the project. Port Camargue and La Grande Motte are no stranger to fly overs. A never ending cascade of small airplanes and helicopters pass directly above to get the same view that we captured with our drone. An added bonus to the atmosphere of the marina is that the displays of “Super Extreme Wealth” are not capable to be accommodated here.
The marina maintains its charm as it never redesigned itself to accommodate for the continually growing modern mega Yachts of today. These insanely grotesque displays of wealth are luckily not able to get into the marina, thus you won’t see any in the region. Also I have never seen a helicopter land in or near any of the two urban centers. Sorry extremely wealthy people, this area only accommodates the wealthy and middle class.
This region is not new to mega rejuvenation mega projects. The earliest known one is of a completely different variety than the previous 3. It revolved around key features we take for granted these days….. security!
The old town of Aigues Mortes is a completely fortified city that was built under the rule Louis IX in between 1242- 1300. The town that had already existed for over 1000 years when this middle ages “Sodasopa” revitalization begun. Hahaha No, they were not trying to increase food truck sales and increase property values, but rather to keep people out! The walls were built to keep this French city, a foot hold for trading, protected from invaders. To this day it has been up-kept to keep its iconic structural security skeleton in phenomenal shape. Today the doors are wide open, inviting tourist year round to come have a bite to eat and buy some standard tourist bull shit you didn’t even know you wanted.
These 4 Mega Projects are certainly not on many bucket lists, if any at all, but are an absolute must see when passing through the area. Their sheer size, history and differences make each one appealing in its own right. From modern, medieval, to visionary urban yachting, long beaches, restaurants, food trucks and modern urban landscapes, these mega projects are at the root of the culture that makes this area that is already super popular for flamingos that much more special.