As a connoisseur of architecture, I’ve seen some very strange houses, but I’ve never seen anything quite so strange (and so strangely delightful) as this bubble house by avant-garde architect Antti Lovag, which takes the traditional notion of what a house should look like — walls, roof, windows, doors — and completely blows it out of the water.
Antti Lovag was a Hungarian-born architect who emigrated to France, where he worked for a time with Jean Prouvé. Lovag, who felt that architecture should be a “form of play,” despised the straight line. “Whether for economic reasons or lack of technical solutions,” he said, “human beings have confined themselves to cubes full of dead ends and angles that impede our movement and break our harmony.” He was also a bit of a nightmare for clients, once saying, “I don’t know what it’s going to be like, I don’t know when it’s going to be finished, and I don’t know how much it’s going to cost.”
Despite this, he did find a few clients, whom he rewarded with some of the most unusual architecture ever built. His bubble houses, of which a handful were built, were created by rolling spheres of reinforcing wire mesh over the ground until the client (and Lovag) felt they were in the proper place. The spheres were then covered with concrete, creating a series of fantastical shapes. According to one source, windows were not included in the original floor plans, but rather added on-site wherever the client felt they should go.
Lovag’s best client was his patron, the industrialist Pierre Bernard. In 1971 Lovag (pictured above in an image from Penccil, completed his first residence, a house for Bernard which resembled a pile of intestines artfully draped across the landscape.
In 1975, Lovag began work on what would be his magnum opus, a second home for Bernard that would come to be know as the Palais Bulles, or Palace of Bubbles. The house, located at the edge of a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean, was indeed palatial, with a reception hall, 10 bedrooms, multiple swimming pools, and a 500-seat amphitheater overlooking the sea. (I have not been able to find a guess as to its square footage, perhaps owing to the difficulty of measuring anything square in a house so determinedly round. Circle footage?)
The house was completed in 1989, but unfortunately Bernard was not able to enjoy his massive nest of bubbles for long. He died in 1991, and the house was sold to fashion designer Pierre Cardin, who made the house available for events and photoshoots.
In 2015, he put the house on the market, and in 2017 it apparently sold, for the princely sum of 350 million euros, making it one of the most expensive houses ever sold in Europe. The buyer is as yet unknown, but if they would like to call us for a house tour, we would be more than happy to oblige.
Want to see more?
• Check out Penccil’s massive gallery for many more pics of the house. (Although, fair warning — a few of these pics are actually of the Maison Bernard, and some of Lovag’s other works.)
• Here’s Arch Daily on the history of the Palais Bulles.
• The interior of the Maison Bernard, a slightly smaller bubble house, is no less fascinating.