The year is 1989: controversial deconstructionalist Frank Gehry takes home the Pritzker Prize, I.M. Pei's Louvre Pyramid wraps construction in Paris, and, on the star-flecked beaches of Cannes, France, avant-garde fashion designer Pierre Cardin, the (now 92-year-old) bon vivant known for utterly disregarding the bodies underneath his architectonic clothing, is ready to move in to his new vacation house: Palais Bulles (Palace of Bubbles). Now largely rented out for parties and fashion photo shoots, Palais Bulles is like a giant seashell/macaroni sculpture, an exemplar of the post-structuralist architectural play of the late-'80s.
Palais Bulles' most conspicuous feature, its dearth of corners, is actually a trademark of its architect. Antti Lovag hates edges—sound familiar?—and considers the straight line to be "an aggression against nature."
He's also been known to say things like: "Whether for economic reasons or lack of technical solutions, human beings have confined themselves to cubes full of dead ends and angles that impede our movement and break our harmony."
Lovag is known for producing architecture as a "form of play—spontaneous, joyful, full of surprise," as well as his hifalutin poetic about the natural form of habitats, having long established himself as a guru in organic forms, particularly the clustered, bubbly kind. "Conviviality is a circular phenomenon. The circle structures the way human life is carried out," he's said. "[The sphere] is the simplest construction; it has just one dimension, the radius."
It took Lovag 14 years to build Palais Bulles, which bubbles over the crags overlooking the Mediterranean, offering views of both the Bay of Cannes and the Bay of Nice. Despite the fact that Cardin lives a self-described "nomadic life," he immediately adored the way "Maison Bulles" was "as crazy as it is marvelous; no other place offers me the depth of sustenance and support."
Considering Cardin built a megalithic brand on a foundation of avant-garde, structural, and post-art design, it's moderately surprising that the fashion poohbah never commissioned the villa's construction, having only bought it at the tail end of its creation. Cardin once said he "like[s] to draw in absolute terms, without the constraints of angles of corridors, rooms or walls," so the building seems like it was designed for him.
"Round shapes have always inspired me," he's said. "This house clinging to the rocky outcrops of the Estérel massif—beyond time, beyond convention—has become a little corner of paradise for me. Something of a gallery of living art, in a state of perpetual motion, the Palais Bulles is for me a constant and powerful image of creativity."
The building itself features waterfalls, ponds, and pools spilling over its ochre surfaces. Inside: spaces souped up by contemporary artists to include slouchy, amorphic furnishings, a 5,382-square-foot reception room, and a lounge with windows overlooking the Mediterranean. More photos, below.