“Fifty High Seasons” looks at a stretch of French coastline between Montpellier and Perpignan that was developed into a series of coastal resorts in the 1960’s. This unprecedented project, know as ”La Mission Racine,” was originally initiated by President General de Gaulle. Ahead of its time, innovative architects were hired for each town to construct unique spaces adapted to the local environment.

It aimed to turn the Languedoc-Roussillon coast line into a destination, for French and northern European tourists, centered around leisure while offering an alternative source of income for the region. In 1962 the population one of the main towns, Port-Barcares, was 775. Today it is approximately 4,000—a number which climbs to 80,000 during the peak of summer (source: INSEE).

The original vision behind the project featured complex and unusual urban planning. At the center of the plan for Port-Barcares was a unique and ambitious plan to permanently ground a cruise liner, La Lydia, and convert it into a nightclub with a swimming pool on the top deck. [first photo in slideshow above]

The project has undoubtedly been an economic success, however, Mission Racine was not only about enriching the area. It included an 18% quota of social housing to allow more French citizens to take advantage of their “paid holidays.” There was a determination to provide an alternative to the expensive Cote d’Azur. Environmentally too, there was an effort to preserve parts of the landscape and still today there are pockets of protected land between the towns.

By documenting the various ways the space is used throughout the year—music festivals, fairs, water parks, campsites—the work aims to show how it looks today, 50 years on. Although some of the promise of the original vision has lost its shine and the modern architecture now appears dated, the central values, particularly the idea of offering affordable summer holidays for the average citizen, remain key to how the area is managed.

—Shane Lynam