Terminal Neige totem ski family boutique hotel

Flaine Architecture

ski palace in flaine french alps

by Patricia Parquet

The heritage of Marcel Breuer

On a virgin site, the American architect Marcel Breuer designed the resort of Flaine in the 1960s. An urban model in the mountains raised to the status of an artwork by those who love this exceptional place.

A unique spirit
Flaine has a unique spirit. It is a blend of architecture, design, and art, with monumental outdoor sculptures. The project was first conceived by Eric Boissonnas (1913-2005), a French geophysicist, wealthy philanthropist, visionary and passionate skier. He dreamt of a utopian city and of a great project for France. He asked Marcel Breuer, a master of the Bauhaus, to create a ski resort in Flaine. This Hungarian-born American architect and designer was one of the most influential designers of the 20th century. On a completely virgin site, Marcel Breuer designed a model resort that was car-free, ecological before its time, in the heart of the Grand Massif. No chalets, no tricks, but radically contemporary buildings. No wood, but concrete. Exposed concrete, appreciated by Breuer for its aesthetic qualities and its massiveness, emphasizes nature in all its power. The architect worked alongside Sylvie Boissonnas to design the interiors of the apartments and hotels, with furniture by the greatest designers of the period. Marcel Breuer designed everything from the street lampposts to the lift structures, hotel room fireplaces, and the furniture in the chapel. Three building by Marcel Breuer are listed in France's Supplementary Inventory of Historic Monuments. This is the ecumenical chapel (1967), the Hotel Flaine (19966-1968) and the Betelgeuse building (1966). These buildings have also been awarded the Heritage of the 20th century label.
The keys of Guillaume Relier
Flaine can be rather unapproachable without an interpretive lens. The Parisian architect Guillaume Relier is an expert on Flaine and the work of Marcel Breuer. He has spent two years studying the resort. The resort developers called on him to create the welcome pavilion, and the signage. Guillaume Relier also co-designed the Great Bear. With his expertise, he presents the emblematic buildings and remarkable details.
The Le Flaine hotel, transformed into a residence, is emblematic thanks to its technical prowess. It is striking when viewed from below, even if it is not my favourite of the buildings. The lounges with their large openings and the fireplaces are very character to the rooms.
For me the Totem is Flaine's most beautiful building. Perched on the rock, amidst the trees, it fits perfectly into its site. Its location near the ski area is an asset. The Sibuet family successfully renovated the building while sticking close to the spirit of Marcel Breuer. Their work invoked the pride of the resort.
The balconies of the Betelgeuse building, rather vertigo-inducing, make reference to Bauhaus architecture. They are cantilevered, and express a contrast with a form of lightness. I find this architecture is telluric, with and incredible strength.
It's fantastic to have monumental works of art by Picasso, Dubuffet and Vasarely outdoors, in the middle of a ski resort. They are all part of the resort's unique atmosphere.
I find the chapel to be remarkable insofar as it is in perfect harmony with the buildings around it. Marcel Breuer worked on the form and its materiality. No exposed concrete, but wood covered with slates. As if he wanted to surprise us by offering something very different.
The Canopée and Lindars buildings, in Flaine-Forum, perfectly reflect the work and aesthetic of Marcel Breuer. he employed precast concrete modules, in diamond forms. This gives depth and character to the façades. The resulting play of light and shadow is remarkable. This is the tallest and longest building in the resort. ❞ 

Read the Magazine by Sibuet #6
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