The Hotel des Thermes provides a fine illustration of Jean Nouvel’s knack for gently and delicately slipping a new building into the landscape. Dax itself is a curious town, boasting a remarkable, impeccably proportioned bullring which is built entirely in wood, a charmingly weather-beaten 1930s hotel, the old Splendid, and a river, the Adour, which bathes everything in its pervasive atmosphere. Following on from a preliminary study of the riverscape, the new hotel was built in the city centre. Respecting the dimensions and alignment of the neighbouring Splendid, the new building features a curving roofline echoing the latter hotel’s arched parapet wall.
Once again, Nouvel has brought into play contrasting fields of vision. The treatment of the uniform exterior façades is straightforward: they are fully glazed yet discreetly concealed by wooden shutter-blinds, which are typical of the Landes region. The rooms, each commanding a fine view over the river or the town, are laid out around a central atrium. The surrounding landscape is framed in the open-ended galleries; even the swimming pool offers a panoramic view of the river and the opposite bank. Exotic vegetation invades the atrium, covering the glazed roof of the pool. The aquatic blue atmospheric effect created by the colored glazing is enhanced by the provision of neon strip-lighting along the galleries, each technical detail of which is highlighted. The same peaceful aquatic theme is reiterated in the simply decorated rooms with their blue or white bedcovers.