The House where Pierre lived

Today I’m looking at a French Riviera icon. Nothing else quite compares to the Palais Bulles. The “Bubble Palace,” as it’s known, is quite probably the most extravagant, eccentric and eclectic home down here. Set in Théoule-sur-Mer near Cannes, it was built in 1975 – taking 14 years to construct – by Hungarian architect Antti Lovag, before it was bought in 1991 by Pierre Cardin. But now that the legendary French fashion designer has passed away (December last year), what will happen to this iconic private home?

After a 5-year renovation project, the palais home was listed in 2017 for US$420 million (Euros 350 million) , but it didn’t sell. It is known to local real estate brokers as the place nobody wants to buy, despite being an incredible masterpiece in its own right.

The 13,000 square foot (1,300 sq m) home has 29 rooms, including 10 bedrooms  – each designed by a different artist – and 11 baths, with its own private outdoor auditorium that seats 500 people. Cardin never lived in the property, he lived nearby and would rent it out to groups for US$33,200 (Euros 27,500) a day. It has famously featured in pop videos and films.

man next to a building and pool
Pierre Cardin standing outside of Palais Bulles in 2003.

It’s a work of art to be cherished. Owning it is not only a question of money. It needs someone who will fall in love with it, who shares and understands Mr. Cardin’s vision – local property agent.

The Palais Bulles is undoubtedly an iconic piece of real estate; however, the predominant opinion is that the property is a bit of a white elephant. It’s architecturally incredible but largely impractical for residential living and would require a huge amount of remedial work. It needs repurposing within the commercial market as it’s pretty useless in its current form.

The home is no doubt a work of art. It has round, bubble-like forms, which ties into Cardin’s own futuristic style of ’60 mod-era fashion design. Cardin said of the Palais Bulles:

This palace has become my own bit of paradise. Its cellular forms have long reflected the outward manifestations of the image of my creations. It is a museum where I exhibit the works of contemporary designers and artists.

models walking outside building
Models walk the runway during a Dior fashion show in 2016

With stunning views of the Mediterranean from a rocky cliff on the Cote d’Azur, it’s a cultural hub, in that it has been rented out for Christian Dior fashion shows, Cannes Film Festival parties and private galas. But what should become of it now?

The Palais Bulles is part of a long history of artist homes along the French Riviera which I’m slowly exploring. Henri Matisse made nearby Nice his home in the 1930s, while artist Jean Cocteau lived at the Villa Santo Sospir on Cap Ferrat for months, hand-painting its walls. Another designer, Karl Lagerfeld, could be found at the Villa la Vigie not far from furniture designer and architect Eileen Gray’s white, minimal, 1929 villa. Not forgetting the final home of Pablo Picasso in Mougins which still stands today, though privately owned.

We have a lot of villas with provenance down here on the coast. It’s a tradition that reveals how life has changed over the years. Palais Bulles deserves to be open, visited and appreciated. Even better if there is the possibility to do research, artist residencies, or site-specific projects, or have visits from architecture and design schools, for students, as it’s an important piece of architecture.

view outside of a window

The architect, Lovag, first designed the Palais Bulles as an experiment. He saw architecture as a “form of play—spontaneous, joyful, full of surprise,” and hated the straight line. He once called the straight line “an aggression against nature,” which was pretty radical for its time.

Pierre Cardin was a great designer; his avant-garde style and spaces were legendary. He had a really long and wonderful life, let’s hope his Palais does too.

(All images courtesy of Getty Images)

23 Comments on “The House where Pierre lived

  1. Pingback: The House where Pierre lived — View from the Back – Ninnys Nest

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