In the 19th century, Royan is a small seaside town that owes its development to the fashion of the sea baths coming from England and to the development of steam navigation. A link between Bordeaux and Royan is established quickly, and the city adapts to tourism. At the end of the 19th century, with the arrival of the railway, Royan became a tourist resort frequented by both the Bordeaux bourgeoisie and the Tout-Paris.
On the night of 4th to 5th January 1945, Royan was hard hit by the bombing of the allies who were trying to destroy one of the last Nazi entrenchments, the "Poche de Royan". 85% of the city is destroyed. The only areas spared are those of the Park and Pontaillac. At the time, Royan had nearly 4,000 villas. About 250 escaped the bombs. About thirty of them still testify to the exceptional quality of this seaside architecture, which offers many variations around three types of buildings: the cottage, the castle or the cottage. In July 1945, the project of reconstruction was entrusted to Claude Ferret who cumulated the responsibilities of urban planner and chief architect.
This architecture, although unique in France, is unfortunately misunderstood and unloved by some of the Royans, who do not see one of the great merits of reconstructors: the social and popular success of their work.
This detour, and this lack of appropriation has led to the destruction of works emblematic of the reconstruction. The post was disfigured in the mid-70s by a brutalist construction without soul, and amputated from its winding gallery. Abandoned, Ferret's casino is closed, and finally destroyed in 1985, its condition being considered unrecoverable. At the same time, the portico connecting the two wings of the waterfront, which had been the subject of bitter discussions during its construction, and had never really been accepted by the population, is in turn demolished. Finally, the Palais des Congrès has seen its facade profoundly altered by the addition of a uniform glass wall, which closes the parallelepiped that Ferret had endeavored to hollow out.
A study dating from the 80s showed that the city of Royan evoked to the people questioned above all the seaside resort: holidays, sun, and sea are the words that most used to define the city. The architecture of urban constructions and ensembles was, in their view, of only relative interest. Only Notre-Dame church seemed to be appreciated as the most emblematic monument of the city. For those questioned, the city has no architectural identity or heritage interest, except for Belle-Epoque villas.
At the end of the 1980s, the municipality became aware of the importance of safeguarding and protecting this heritage from the 1950s. This led to the development in 1992 of an urban and landscape architectural protection zone (ZPPAUP) , On the constructions of the 1950s, but also on the seaside villas of the late nineteenth, early twentieth century. This ZPPAUP is aimed in particular at stopping the rapid deterioration of buildings in the city center, with badly maintained or even overhauled facades.
Notre-Dame church was classified as a historic monument in 1988, but it was not until 2002 that other major constructions of the Reconstruction were also built: the Protestant temple, the market, the Hélianthe and Ombre Blanche villas, The residence Foncillon, 2007, for the villa built by Pierre Marmouget rue du collège and 2011 for the Palais des Congrès.
In 2010, the City of Royan, wishing to continue valuing its heritage, has applied for the Town of Art and History, which was awarded by the Ministry of Culture and Communication in January 2011.
To know the history of the city and to understand better its architecture, we advise you to visit the museum of Royan.
To discover and visit Royan, consult the Tourist Office program of guided tours.