The man who invented the Planches de Deauville

90 years after their inauguration, these cabins, photographed all day long by top fashion photographers and visitors alike, have become, along with the beach and its parasols, Deauville's best-known and most recognizable backdrop.

Charles Adda is the architect. He was born in Algiers in 1873. He died in 1938 in Normandy at the age of 65. After considering a career in the navy, Charles Adda arrived in Paris at the age of 20. A gifted draughtsman, he decided to study architecture. At the Ecole des Beaux-arts de Paris, he studied with Victor Laloux, architect of the Gare d'Orsay railway station. Four years later, after graduating from the École des Beaux-Arts de Paris in 1897, he opened his own practice on rue Ampère (Paris 17th).

Born in Algiers, Charles Adda loved the sea. Born into a modest family, he was fascinated by the society that frequented Deauville. His decisive meeting with the Duc de Quincey led him to work for a clientele of illustrious names: Boni de Castellane, the Duc de Gramont, the Comtesse de Greffulhe, art dealer Georges Bernheim, Deauville regular Jeanne Paquin and others, for whom he built luxurious townhouses.

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

After the Great War, at the start of the Roaring Twenties, Charles Adda became the architect of record for the Société d'Encouragement et des Sociétés Hippiques de Paris in 1919. He designed the large reinforced concrete grandstand at the Longchamp racecourse, followed by those at Chantilly and several other racecourses in the Paris region.

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

It was in Deauville that Charles Adda would go down in history, designing what remains his major work: the sea baths, nicknamed Les Bains pompéiens, a complex of buildings erected in two phases between 1922 and 1929.

In 1921, Eugène Colas's municipality launched a competition for the creation of bathing cabins, involving fifteen architects . Charles Adda won the competition.

His Pompeian baths project won us over. With its architecture, of course, and the range of services it brings together: boutiques, a café bar, a hairdressing salon, steam baths, a laundry, a laundromat and 250 cabins.

The single-storey building is deliberately kept low, to free up the horizon from the casino terrace facing the sea. 

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

They are grouped into islets bounded by a network of porticoed galleries.

The whole is uncluttered, with pure concrete forms, highlighted by the polychromy of superb mosaics, dominated by blue.

For this project, Charles Adda carefully selected his suppliers: Marcel Bergue, an ironworker, and above all Alphonse Gentil & Eugène Bourdet, who created the mosaics.

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

Charles Adda's other great idea was to create a 7 m wide, 643 m long plank walkway on the beach side, alongside the cabins, which were built around the sea bathing courtyard.

As soon as it was inaugurated, this avenue of planks, made of Azobé wood, became : Les Planches, Deauville's most famous promenade.

Turning his back on the Anglo-Norman style and 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, with a hint of orientalism, well in tune with the visual universe of the Roaring Twenties.


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Résidence de l'Horloge
Quai de l'Impératrice Eugénie
14800 Deauville
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Place Jean Mermoz
14640 Villers-sur-Mer
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32 bis avenue Michel d'Ornano
14910 Blonville-sur-Mer
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40 rue du Général Leclerc
14113 Villerville
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20 Place Lemercier
14800 Touques
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Promenade Louis Delamare
(behind the first-aid post)
14800 Tourgéville
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