Pierre Cardin’s Lacoste – the Curse of Sade?

When Pierre Cardin set about restoring virtually an entire decaying village in the Luberon in 2001, he might have expected that the millions of euros pouring into the regional economy would endear him to the locals.


Nora Arnezeder and Pierre Cardin at a French cinema festival . (Credit: Wikipedia)

Nora Arnezeder and Pierre Cardin at a French cinema festival . (Credit: Wikipedia)
How wrong he was. Bradley B Kuett of the Provence Ventoux Blog reports on the outcome as Cardin and his cash head off to more angst in Venice.

Lacoste Diary: Did Sustained Opposition and Petty Resentments in the Luberon Drive Pierre Cardin to Build the Palais Lumière in Venice?

by Bradley B Kuett of the Provence Ventoux Blog

Pierre Cardin was in high spirits Friday as he strolled along rue Basse (above) in Lacoste, the Luberon village where in 2001 he purchased the Château once the lair of the Marquis de Sade, and since then has bought about 46 other buildings.

After years of planning, promotion and strenuous negotiating, Mr. Cardin is optimistic that he will soon be laying the foundation stones in Venice for his monumental Palais Lumière. He will be back in Venice this week to push for construction permits.

At 840-feet, the Palais Lumière will be the highest structure in Italy. Located on the mainland across the lagoon from the center of Venice, the building sits on the site of an old chemical plant in former industrial area Porto Marghera.

The Palais Lumière features a futuristic design of three fin-shaped towers linked horizontally by six huge steel discs. A veritable city in the sky, it will envelop more than 250 apartments, a hotel, offices, restaurants, a shopping complex, a theater and a conference center. Estimated cost: nearly $2 billion, financed entirely by Mr. Cardin.

Consider this: Did the sustained opposition in the Luberon to any project that Mr. Cardin proposed erode over time his desire to invest there? Did the continual aggravation of resistance and petty resentment drive Mr. Cardin to undertake a signature project elsewhere – Venice?

Virtually since the moment he set foot in the Château, Cardin has endured incessant administrative harassment – legal mind you – from a “Committee” headed by a wine producer, sparking disputes between those locals who envision themselves as protectors of the status quo (buildings in decay) and the wealthy patron devoted to renovating and preserving existing structures and landscapes in the Luberon.

The “Committee” was successful in blocking the construction of an amphitheatre within the old quarry where Mr. Cardin holds his annual Lacoste Festival. They even attempted to halt renovations of the Château (Pierre prevailed).

The last major project scuttled by protests was a golf course that Mr. Cardin planned to construct on land he owns near the neighbouring village of Bonnieux. He envisioned the course, which was to feature sculptures on each hole, as a boost to tourism in the region.

In an incident not widely reported, farmers staged a lightening attack in the summer of 2010 when they massed their tractors on the streets above the village, threatening to shut down the Lacoste Festival on opening night in open revolt against Cardin’s plans for a golf course. Mr. Cardin relented. In an interview on FR 3 television, he stated that the golf course was not a necessity, nor a need (“ce n’est pas un besoin”).

The golf course would have provided guests for hotels that Mr. Cardin was planning in the village of Lacoste. He extensively renovated two buildings on the rue Basse, the main pedestrian street, converting them to hotels, one with a restaurant. Yet they function today as occasional lodging for friends, associates, invited artists and the staff of the summer festival. Did scuttling the golf course doom the development of the hotels in Lacoste?

In Venice, the Palais Lumière has encountered strong opposition from environmental groups and from Venetians who say it will ruin the skyscape and who question its necessity.

For the cash-strapped city of Venice, the economic benefits are enticing: millions from the sale of land and from development taxes, and the creation of about 5,000 jobs.

As is his desire for design to be experienced rather than explained, Mr. Cardin is bemused at those who oppose him, preferring to address the positive aspects of this and any project. Cardin’s creative inspiration depends upon a knack for defying historical conventions and those who cling to them.

In a sardonic tone, Mr. Cardin quipped to a reporter at the Wall Street Journal, “What else can I do?” (see link to article below)

One distinguishes that in Venice Mr. Cardin has an ‘edge’ that deserted him at times in the Luberon. A final decision on the permits is expected within a month.

One distinguishes that in Venice Mr. Cardin has an ‘edge’ that deserted him at times in the Luberon. A final decision on the permits is expected within a month.


Presentation of Palais LumièreYoutube

Illustrations of Palais LumièreDe Zeen 

Article: The Wall Street Journal

Story: Bradley Kuett


Author: Bradley Kuett is a writer / consultant based in the Vaucluse.
This report, written by Bradley B Kuett of the Provence Ventoux Blog is reprinted here by kind permission of the author who retains all rights.

Provence Ventoux Le Blog (PVB):  offers annals of life in the Vaucluse, the soi-disant French California, experienced by people living there.  The blog is structured in four columns: food, wine, culture and reportage.  PVB is an exercise in entourage reportage: observations, impressions and points of view (POV) offered by a cadre of individuals who are at times at the same table or event. PBV does not aspire to the role of critic for food, wine or culture. An appropriate label would read bystander, observer or raconteur. PVB is published in English and edited by Bradley Kuett, who has frequented Aix-en-Provence since 1996.


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