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Grimaud (Municipality, Var, France)

Last modified: 2018-06-23 by ivan sache
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Flag of Grimaud - Image by Ivan Sache, 3 April 2018

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Presentation of Grimaud

The municipality of Grimaud (4,300 inhabitants in 2015, 4,458 ha; municipal website) is located at the end of the Gulf of Saint-Tropez, half-distance (15 km) of Sainte-Maxime and Saint-Tropez.

Grimaud was first mentioned in charters of the 11th century as "castrum de Grimaldo", indeed a citadel erected on a rocky spur overlooking the Gulf of Grimaud. Composed of a fort, a church and dwellings surrounded by a wall, the village was most probably named for a lord Grimaldus; the alleged connection of this lord with the Grimaldi princely house of Monaco is not supported by any historical evidence.
Gibelin de Grimaldi is said to have been rewarded the domain of Freinet / Fraxinet (from Latin fraxinus, "an ash tree"), covering more or less the present-day's cantons of Grimaud and Saint-Tropez (including the villages of Grimaud, La Garde-Freinet, Cogolin, La Mole, Gassin, Ramatuelle, Saint-Tropez and Sainte-Maxime), as a reward for his support to Count of Provence William the Liberator. The village of La Garde-Freinet, located in the hinterland and overlooked by a castrum, is traditionally said to have been the last den of Saracens, who were expelled in 980 by William the Liberator (based on the very dubious Histoire de Provence by Nostradamus); extensive archeological excavations of the castrum, however, have not revealed any remains of such a Saracen occupation.
At the end of the 13th century, a second wall was built to encompass the village of Grimaud, that had grown outside the citadel on the slope of the hill.

Grimaud was made a Barony, then a Marquisate. On 10 July 1645, François de Castellane de Saint-Juers, lord of Gassin and Governor of the tower of Cavalaire, acquired the Marquisate of Grimaud and Val Freinet from Marie de la Beaume de Montrevel d'Agoult, widow of Exprit Allard, "living Marquis" of Grimaud. The Castellane family, claiming a Castilian origin, was one of the oldest noble lineages in Provence.
[Inventaire général des papiers renfermés dans les archives du château de Grimaud [...] fait en l'année 1781]

Grimaud progressively declined because of the rise of the port of Saint-Tropez as a port of commerce, the Gulf of Grimaud being renamed to the Gulf of Saint-Tropez. The castle was abandoned during the French Revolution; its ruins, surmounted by a circular keep and a square tower, form the scenic landmark of Grimaud, offering a nice view on the village, the neighboring vineyards, the Port Grimaud lacustrine city and the Gulf of Saint-Tropez. The old village with typical steep, narrow streets, squares and fountains is now a tourist's hotspot.

Ivan Sache, 3 April 2018

Flag of Grimaud

The flag of Grimaud (photo) is blue with the municipal arms, "Gules a tower or masoned gules a bordure or. The shield surrounded by branches of oak and olive or and surmounted by a mural crown or masoned gules". The arms are designed in a very sketchy manner.

Ivan Sache, 3 April 2018

Port Grimaud


Flag of Port Grimaud - Image by Pascal Vagnat, 3 April 2018

The lacustrine city of Port Grimaud was designed and built in the 1960s by the architect François Spoerry (1912-1999). The town is composed of three districts, Port Grimaud I (1966-1971), Port Grimaud II (1974-2002), and Port Grimaud III (1978-1993), each managed by a distinct council. Port Grimaud is a private area open to visitors, as wished by its designer.
Spoerry explained his project to the newspaper L'Alsace as follows: "Port Grimaud was born from my wish to have a small house on the shore with a ship in front of my door [...] I also plan to create a village rather than a group of houses. A genuine village, with a core, a square, a church, hotels and restaurants. A village as it would have been, provided architects had not existed. Born from the past, but in agreement with the present-day's men and things. [...]"

In 1962, Spoerry acquired a big (35 ha, subsequently increased to 71 ha), plot located at the end of the Gulf of Saint-Tropez. Limited by a road and river Giscle and infested by mosquitoes, this marshy and shallow area did not attract any property developer. Nobody cared either to protect the last wetlands in the region, since their were deemed unhealthy and their ecological role was still ignored. The local legend says that Port Grimaud was built on the site of the Greek colony of Athenopolis.
Inventor of the concept of "soft architecture", Spoerry designed a lakeside city composed of small, three-storeyed "fisher's houses". Adjacent but all different from each other, the houses are painted in ocher and pastel shades and covered with Roman hollow tiles. The houses are lined along channels, at least 60 m in width and 3 m in depth to accommodate sailboats. Every house is accessed both by land and a private quay to moor the boat. Car traffic is prohibited inside the town. No bridge should restrict the boat's access to any house, therefore the complex branching of the channels. One of the first inhabitants of Port Grimaud, the naval architect Claude Graf (d. 2015), created in 1967 a water coach service modeled on the Venetian vaporetti.

Spoerry was not only the architect but also the property developer and project manager, which stirred a protest by the Order of Architects. The permit of construction was granted on 13 June 1966 and Port Grimaud's cornerstone was laid down on 2 October 1966, a few weeks after the actual start of the works. Technical problems and floods delayed the works but did not prevent the first houses to be delivered in summer 1967. Port Grimaud I was completed in 1971. Water covers 42% of the total area of the lake city, green areas 33% and buildings the remaining 25%.
To increase the fame - and sales - of Port Grimaud, Spoerry developed a wise communication strategy, involving specific events and celebrities. The TV program Le show Bardot, a 50', color film broadcasted on 31 December 1967 features Brigitte Bardot (b. 1934) sailing from Saint-Tropez to Port Grimaud on her personal sailboat.
The project was presented in 1968 at the Paris Nautical Fair, using a scale model filled with water. Prime Minister Georges Pompidou (1911-1974), a familiar of Saint-Tropez, looked at the model for long minutes, leaving the place with wet feet because of a leak in the model. The twinning of Port Grimaud with Venice was celebrated on 3 July 1970; a parade of decorated boats was led by a genuine Venetian gondola, with the swimmer Kiki Caron (b. 1948) on board. Although not official at all, the twinning increased the fame of Port Grimaud, soon nicknamed the Little Provençal Venice.

The St. Francis of Assisi church, consecrated in July 1973, is jointly managed by the Roman Catholic and Protestant communities of Port Grimaud. Its main facade, on the sea side, is decorated by 25 colored-windows, each featuring a different representation of the sun above the sea, designed by Victor Vasarely (1906-1997).
Port Grimaud was often criticized as "a marina for rich people", while architects mocked Spoerry's style as "decadent". This did not prevent Port Grimaud to be labelled "Architectural Heritage from the 20th century" on 3 September 2004 by the French Ministry of Culture, and Spoerry to design similar lake cities in foreign countries.
On 13 August 1970, during the inauguration of the Port Grimaud Common House, the American billionaire Huntington Hartford (1911-2008) hired Spoerry to design the lake city of Port Liberté in Jersey City, NJ. Other cities he designed are the marina of Bendinat (Majorca, Spain), Port Louis (Louisiana, USA), Puerto Escondio (Mexico) and Porto Cervo (Sardinia, Italy). He also designed Port Cergy in Cergy-Pontoise, the first marina in the Paris area.
[Il était une fois Port Grimaud, by Yves Lhermitte]

The flag of Port Grimaud (photo, photo) is vertically divided green-blue with a fish of the same colors, outlined in white.
The fish was originally designed by François Spoerry with a blue head and a green body.
Blue represents the sea while green represents the land and the natural environment. The two colors indicate that Port Grimaud is both on sea and land, as a lake city.
The flag was hoisted at the entrance of the port, on the Common House, and on several boats. When hoisted on the Saracen tower of Spoerry's personal house, it indicated the presence of the architect in the house. Spoerry welcomed here severeal celebrities, such as the actors Robert Dhéry, Jacques Charrier and Peter Sellers, the explorer Paule-Émile Victor and the singer Charles Aznavour.
For an unknown reason, the colors were swapped at the end of the 1990s and never restored since then.
[Il était une fois Port Grimaud, by Yves Lhermitte]

Ivan Sache, 3 April 2018

Yacht Club International de Port Grimaud


Burgee of YCIPG - Image by Ivan Sache, 3 April 2018

YCIPG (website) was imagined on 26 August 1985 by François Spoerry, the designer of Port Grimaud, during the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the city. Informally established in 1986, YCIPG had its Statutes registered on 11 August 1986. The seven founding members were François Spoerry, Sonia Marret, Stéphane Liévain, Henri Roger Hancock, Robert Vaughan-Jones and Jacques Lebrun. Then a living legend of French yachting, Lebrun (1910-1996) won the gold medal in the Snowbird class in the 1932 Olympics and competed in the 1936, 1948, 1952 and 1960 Olympiads.
YCIPG was affiliated in January 2000 with the French Sailing Federation; a motorboat section was subsequently established.

The burgee of YCIPG (photo) is a triangular version of the original flag of Port-Grimaud (blue at hoist and green at fly), with the white letters "YCIPG" placed vertically in the blue stripe.

Ivan Sache, 3 April 2018