Les Menuires, 60 years of controversy and innovation
In 2024, Les Menuires is celebrating its 60th anniversary! 🎂 The resort was criticised at first for its architecture, but today is a source of inspiration. Let's take a look back over this fascinating history, filled with audacity and debate.
Concrete towers, urban-style buildings that were a far cry from what is expected in the mountains... The first years after its creation, the innovative architecture of Les Menuires was not necessarily a roaring success. Over half a century later, it is now used as a reference to follow in terms of urban development. For its 60th anniversary, we're looking back over the captivating evolution of a resort that is sure to leave an impression!
1960s: the creation of Les Menuires
In 1964, the Pompidou government introduced a new policy concerned with the development of the mountains, known as Plan Neige. This large-scale project was concerned with creating and developing ski resorts for the middle class, looking for leisure activities.
Construction work at Les Menuires (pronounced Meun-oo-ears) began the same year. The chosen area at 1,800 m was uninhabited at the time, but close to the village of Saint-Martin-de-Belleville. The first area to be created was La Croisette with the first ski tows, and the first buildings such as Le Solaret, which have since been knocked down. The resort was officially opened for the 1964-1965 winter season, with 450 bed places.
1970s: 'Sarcelles des Neiges' (Sarcelles in the Snow)
Architect Philippe Douillet designed the buildings of Les Menuires to be urban, impressive and practical. An example? Le Brelin, built in 1972, resembles a ship that has dropped anchor in the middle of an ocean of snow. The vast interior houses 562 apartments and several shops! The resort's innovative architecture was not appreciated by everyone.
Mille Routes described Les Menuires as "the result of a bout of madness from some talented architects who had run out of cathedrals to work on" (1973). For the Touring Club de France, the buildings are "tiny boxes for families that are nothing like the ones in Manhattan, but [...] bear a shameful resemblance to the Montparnasse towers [...]" (1977). And the French newspaper Libération dubbed the resort the "Sarcelles des Neiges".
Luckily, there were also some positive reviews. For La Montagne: "The success of Les Ménuires (spelled with an accent in the publication) is no longer a secret today: the 'functional' nature of this resort overrides any material issues" (1973). That's what really matters. Les Menuires is a compact, car-free resort that's easy to get around on foot, in the snow. It is an affordable destination where you can expect great value for money, meaning it is adapted to all budgets and is becoming more and more popular.
1980s and 1990s: evolution of the resort
In the late 1970s and then in the 1980s, the resort flourished with 11,000 extra bed places. Entire neighbourhoods were created, including Les Bruyères and Les Fontanettes. The architecture also evolved, moving further away from the style of the 1960s. Wooden and stone chalets took over, in keeping with the traditional Savoyard style of housing.
In 1985, Les Menuires celebrated its 30th anniversary! Seven years later, in 1992, the resort got a fantastic boost thanks to the Albertville Olympic Games. After some hesitation, the resort was chosen to host the special men's slalom events.
From the 2000s to today
Les Menuires evolved over time into the resort we know today. In 2000, architect Yves de Preval designed an elegant bell tower that was so high it could be seen from all over the resort. The avant-garde style was highly criticised but the daring design propelled the resort into the third millennium. This original creation was awarded first prize for steel architecture.
The following year, a venue was built at the foot of this building to host shows and concerts. Then in 2005, a sports centre was added. This was when the views of the architecture in Les Menuires began to change. In 2012, Le Brelin was even awarded the 'Heritage of the 20th Century' label.
The resort of Les Menuires is now recognised as a reference in terms of architectural design. The vast creations that were once criticised are now considered as references, even more so that the multitude of imitation chalets that cover some nearby valleys. It is now time to imagine what the future holds for the mountains, and Les Menuires is leading the way when it comes to the environment with energy renovation support measures for rental accommodation.
Since 1964, Les Menuires has been a key destination of the 3 Vallées ski area. Visitors of more than 62 nationalities now come from all over the globe to this cutting-edge, environmentally friendly resort. This reputation has even been immortalised by artist from Nantes, Docteur Paper, whose exclusive artwork will be exhibited this winter.