When modernist master Jean Prouvé created his demountable houses in 1944 as temporary shelters for war refugees of the French region of Lorraine, little did he dream that a refurbished version of his 6×6 emergency prefabricated home would end up as a solar-powered luxury suite in a pine forest of Provence.
But these are no ordinary woods: Château La Coste, owned by Belfast-born art collector and property magnate, Paddy McKillen, is a 600-acre sprawl that encompasses biodynamic vineyards and a winery by architect Jean Nouvel; a café and bookstore; three restaurants, including one by Argentine chef Francis Mallmann; Villa La Coste, an elegant mid-century-inspired 29-room hotel and spa with interiors by Andre Fu; two rehabilitated 1940s wood houses by Jean Prouvé that serve as libraries; and a Tadao Ando-designed Art Centre. Here, an ever-expanding open-air museum features contemporary works by the likes of Louise Bourgeois and Richard Serra as well as small-scale pavilions by a series of Pritzker Prize-winners, including Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers. Still to be completed is a light tunnel by James Turrell, a Frank Gehry/Tony Berlant collaborative work and an auditorium complex designed by Oscar Niemeyer.
Unsurprisingly, the new Suite N° 30 slots in nicely with Château La Coste’s pioneering architectural spirit. Likewise, Prouvé was also pivotal in launching the careers of Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano in the 1970s when, as head of the jury, he supported their winning project for Paris’ Centre Pompidou.
In 2015, after a brief showing at Design Miami /Basel, the Prouvé/Rogers demountable 6X6 home was exhibited at Chateau La Coste’s Renzo Piano Pavilion. Then over dinner one night in London, McKillen and French gallerist and art dealer Patrick Seguin (who since 1991 has actively rescued Prouvé’s remaining demountable houses) brainstormed on how to keep the Prouvé legacy relevant and alive.
‘Prouvé is as important as Le Corbusier, although completely different in terms of scale and ambition,’ says Daniel Kennedy, director of Château La Coste’s Art Centre. ‘We wanted to offer the adventure of living inside a completely autonomous nomadic house and make it function as a hotel, which meant adding phone lines, light switches, softer lighting, bathrobes and filling up the kitchen fridge like a mini-bar.’
Inside, there is a Villa La Coste-designed bed and nightstands, artwork by Nan Goldin, Elizabeth Peyton and Stephen Shore – from the private collection of Laurence and Patrick Seguin – and mid-century furnishings including Prouvé’s ‘Bahut BA 12’ cabinet for storage and the ‘Square Table’ and a pair of ‘Easy Armchairs’ by Pierre Jeanneret.
Meanwhile a newly added cylindrical pod, by Richard Rogers, houses the satellite solar-powered kitchen, where – if not dining at one of the estate’s three restaurants – guests can whip up their own dishes. And while a relatively small water tank means long hot showers are not quite on the cards, Kennedy says, ‘it’s all part of the experience.
✅free Wi-Fi • 30 suites ✅free on-site parking • Aix-en-Provence TGV station: 15-minute drive • Marseille Airport: 40-minute drive
The DNA: A decade in the making, Villa la Coste has been shaped by the pencils, X-actos and brushes of famed creatives such as Frank Gehry, Tadao Ando, Renzo Piano, Norman Foster, Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst and Louise Bourgeois – not to mention its 600 acres of parkland, vineyards, and gardens, and an art collection that rivals some urban museums.
From: Wallpaper* Magazine