The man who invented the Planches de Deauville

90 years after their inauguration, these cabins that the greatest fashion photographers and our visitors photograph all day long, have become, along with the beach and its umbrellas, the best known and most identifiable decor of Deauville.

Charles Adda is the architect. He was born in 1873 in Algiers. He died in 1938 in Normandy at the age of 65. After having thought of a career in the navy, Charles Adda arrived in Paris at the age of 20. Gifted for drawing, he turned to architectural studies. At the Ecole des Beaux-arts de Paris he studied under Victor Laloux, the architect of the Orsay train station. Four years later, after graduating from the Ecole des Beaux-Arts de Paris in 1897, he opened his own office on rue Ampère (Paris 17th).

Born in Algiers, Charles Adda loved the sea. Born into a modest background, he was fascinated by the society that frequented Deauville. His decisive meeting with the Duke of Quincey led him to work for a clientele with illustrious names: Boni de Castellane, the Duke of Gramont, the Countess of Greffulhe, the art dealer Georges Bernheim, the dressmaker Jeanne Paquin, a regular visitor to Deauville,... for whom he built luxurious private hotels.

At the same time, from 1903 to 1914, Charles Adda built many apartment buildings, mostly in the west of Paris. The decorative references are traditional but the interior distribution of space is modern.

After the Great War, when the Roaring Twenties began, Charles Adda became in 1919 the official architect of the Société d'encouragement et des sociétés hippiques de Paris. He designed the large reinforced concrete grandstand for the Longchamp racecourse, then the one in Chantilly and several other racecourses in the Paris region.

An architect who loves and understands the world of horses and racing could not but be endearing to Deauville.

It is precisely through Deauville that Charles Adda will be remembered for designing what remains his major work: the sea baths, nicknamed Les Bains pompéiens, a group of buildings constructed in two phases between 1922 and 1929.

In 1921, the municipality of Eugene Colas, launched a competition for the creation of bathing cabins, which mobilized and put fifteen architects in competition. Charles Adda won the competition.

His Pompeian baths project has seduced. By its architecture, of course, and by the range of services it offers: stores, a café bar, a hairdressing salon, steam baths, a laundry, and 250 cabins.

The whole construction of a single level, remains deliberately low, in order to free the horizon, from the terrace of the casino which faces the sea. 

Inside the bathing courtyard, these cabins all have running water (hot and cold water) and are divided into several categories: from the foot rinse... to the luxury bath.

They are grouped in islands that are delimited by a network of galleries with portals.

The whole is stripped, with pure forms of concrete, put in relief and especially in lights by the polychromy of superb mosaics, where dominates the blue.

For this project, Charles Adda carefully chose his providers: Marcel Bergue, ironworker, and especially Alphonse Gentil & Eugene Bourdet who made the mosaics.

This architectural ensemble was completed five years later, in 1929, with the construction of new cabins, stores and the famous Bar du Soleil.

The other great idea of Charles Adda, in addition to the set of cabins, which is based on the sea baths courtyard, is to have conceived, on the beach side, an alley of planks, 7 m wide and 643 meters long.

As soon as it was inaugurated, this avenue of planks, made of Azobe wood, became : Les Planches, the most famous promenade in Deauville.

By turning his back on the Anglo-Norman style and the regionalism that dominated the aesthetics of public buildings at the time, Charles Adda gave the sea baths and the Bar du Soleil a unique art deco style, tinged with orientalism, well in tune with the visual universe of the Roaring Twenties.


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