Built on Saint-Barthélémy hill, the Villa Arson property extends over more than two hectares offering a magnificent view over the city of Nice and the Bay of Angels. A maze of intermingled concrete, stone and vegetation, with inner streets and patios, outdoor amphitheaters, suspended terraces and gardens, harmoniously connecting around the old mansion of the Arson family.
Designed in the 60s by architect Michel Marot, this singular architectural ensemble built in the middle of a Mediterranean garden should be discovered during a leisurely stroll. The low built architecture, which has no façade, extends over 17,000 square meters and follows the hill’s topography. Throughout the property one can encounter works created by contemporary artists in relation to the architecture and the gardens.
The Villa Arson is a unique national institution dedicated to contemporary art. It reunites in a single venue a school of art, an art center, an artists’ residence and a specialized library. The building has been listed « Patrimoine du XXe siècle ». [Heritage of the 20th century].POSTER-VILLA-ARSON-Englishversion.pdf
“The desire to make the buildings disappear inside the vegetation inspired me to spread them out like a lizard in the sun.”
Michel Marot used his experience as a stroller, his knowledge of Mediterranean villages, and his interest in vernacular architecture to create this ensemble with its public squares, its outdoor meeting and discussion places (gardens, exterior amphitheaters) and its maze like little streets. The concrete walls, built like buttresses, bear the imprint of the wooden formwork indoors, and are covered with stones from the Var outdoors, thus displaying the raw aspect of the materials. In fact it is this particular way of dealing with the materials that often leads to using the term “brutalist” regarding the Villa Arson’s architecture (in reference to the architectural style New Brutalism found in England from 1950 to 1970).
“More nonchalant than brutal, I have certainly been influenced by the architecture of the 60s, but I tend to prefer tradition, the context, the site, the neighborhood, the vegetation, the economy.” Michel Marot
Michel Marot’s architecture has no façade and cannot be seen as a whole from any single point of view. To the attentive observer it offers numerous details and formal references, like the maze and the mastaba erected on the terraces as windbreaks and sunshields and the pyramid-shaped light wells for the studios of the art school. The labyrinth-like dimension, the intermingling of buildings and vegetation are main characteristics of the site.