Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Postcard of the Day No. 83 – Hôtel Normandie

The Thirties fashion for maritime themed architecture reached a kind of end point with this example from the Belgian coast at Oostduinkerke near De Panne, built in 1933 as a restaurant. Rather than borrow the sweeping curves and raking profiles associated with marine architecture this developer settled for a coarse and ill-proportioned parody of an ocean liner complete with replica funnels. There’s a long and honourable tradition of this attention seeking, novelty design in the United States where B 52s or diplodocus masquerade as gas stations and drive-ins take the form of donuts and frankfurters – sometimes known as Roadside Vernacular. Without the great American wide open spaces, European planners are wary of architecture that functions as self-promotion making this a rare exception. Ever the opportunist, the restaurateur adopted the name of the French liner Normandie when it entered service in 1937. It can still be seen through the windows of the passing Kusttram between De Panne and Oostende where we photographed it on a wet day last September.

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