Paul Maymont, Thalassa and the Utopia of the Floating City

Paul Maymont
43° 43′ 50″ N, 7° 25′ 31″ E

At the beginning of the 60s, Paul Maymont comes back from Japan influenced by the experimentations of floating cities. He develops his own model and presents Thalassa, a project for the extension of Monaco.

Theoretical work and technotopia

Paul Maymont (1926-2007) was a French architect and urban planner. He began his career as an architect in the late 1950s and from then on initiated an extensive theoretical work on the evolution of cities. He proposed various solutions to urban development which, according to him, was not adapted to the ever-changing society. Since 1965, he has been a Member of the International Group of Prospective Architecture (GIAP). The GIAP is an enhancement of his work as an avant-garde architect and urban planner. Indeed, this group has the will to expose new urbanistic and architectural solutions in a world in constant change. The GIAP acts in a context of strong demographic growth, technical and scientific progress, and observes cities and territories that are no longer adapted to these transformations. Within this group, Paul Maymont confronts his ideas with practitioners from different professions such as Michel Ragon, Yona Friedman, Pascal Haüsermann. They develop the idea of a technotopia, a way of thinking about the city that places new technologies and progress at the center of urban planning. This model would adapt to people and the city would be built according to their needs.

Etude extension de Paris Paul Maymont 1965

Study extension of Paris and Vertical City, Paul Maymont, 1965

Japan's floating cities

In 1959, Paul Maymont studied at Kyoto University and published Ville flottante: étude pour la baie de Tokyo (Floating City: Tokyo Bay Study), a project for the extension of the Japanese city which had the particularity of being a floating model. It’s a pyramidal city based on a cruciform plan inspired by the metabolic movement that was launched the same year. One of the architects of this movement, Kiyonori Kikutake, had for example presented in 1958 another project of floating city. The Marine City project, a city that invests the surface of the sea and tries to respond to the development of megacities. It mixes architecture and advanced technology to create a living architecture. This reflection of the floating city was a theme widely experimented by Kikutake, who thought that the opportunity of floating cities would allow the creation of cities that do not reproduce the same wanderings of terrestrial cities.

Marine City, Kiyonori Kikutake, 1958-1963

Floating City: Tokyo Bay Study, Paul Maymont, 1959-1960

Thalassa on the Monegasque coast

Following his return to France he perfected his model and adapted his research in 1963 for the extension of Monaco, a principality in desperate need of space. He designed a circular shell placed on the water. Homes, hotels, offices are superimposed in successive rings like terraces giving a flared shape to the project. The first level is open and is laid out as a port and beaches while the parking lots are built below sea level. The first ring, slightly separated from the rest of the building, houses the stores, restaurants, bars, hanging gardens etc. The project does not actually float, 28 inclined masts carry the upper rings while floating decks in prestressed concrete support the rest of the project. The project was of course not executed, but the circular shape creates a utopian city centered around the sea as a symbol of unity. It perpetuates the idea that building on the sea is building differently and must require building better.

Paul Maymont Thalassa 1963 View
Paul Maymont Thalassa 1963 Model
Paul Maymont Thalassa 1963 Plan
Paul Maymont Thalassa 1963 Section
Paul Maymont Thalassa 1963

Thalassa, Paul Maymont, 1963

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