Permanent exhibitions

Two permanent exhibitions are on show at the Domaine du Rayol. Great venues for exploration, education and spreading the Garden’s key messages, they are open to everyone, all year round.

The Villa Rayolet: From holiday resort to Gilles Clément’s Mediterranean Gardens

Built in 1925 by the Courmes family, then extended and modernised in the early 1940s for the Potez family, the Villa Rayolet is today on the additional register of historic monuments. This bourgeois seaside Villa, which reflects the new post-war lifestyle, is now open for visits every day. It houses a permanent exhibition: “De la villégiature au Jardin des Méditerranées de Gilles Clément” (From holiday resort to Gilles Clément’s Mediterranean Gardens).

Three exhibition rooms

  • The central room presents the history and evolution of the Jardin des Méditerranées, placed in the long line of landscaped gardens that preceded it.
  • The right room traces the life of the Domaine du Rayol through that of its owners throughout the 20th century.
  • The left room is dedicated to the life and work of landscape gardener Gilles Clément, designer of the Jardin des Méditerranées.
    “Screen panels”, placed along the walls so as not to cut off the views towards the outside and the mirror effects specific to certain rooms, present a rich iconography tracing the history of the site.

A few “objects” occupy the space without distorting it:

  • In the room dedicated to the Jardin des Méditerranées:
    A “global garden” table with a globe revealing the areas subject to the Mediterranean climate,
    A “sound column” to listen to short sentences from Gilles Clément and gardeners speaking about the garden.
  • In the “owners” room:
    A table allowing you to leaf through “family albums” with photos complementary to the panels: an album for each of the two families who lived at the Domaine (Courmes and Potez), an album detailing the architecture, and two albums intended for children.
    A large model of Villa Rayolet, to understand its complex layout.
  • In the room dedicated to Gilles Clément:
    A majestic chandelier made of seeds and leaves collected in the Jardin des Méditerranées and frozen in drops of resin.
    “Wooden petals” engraved with the definitions of Gilles Clément’s key concepts, which play a game with the large mirror in the room.

The Marine Garden: a complex environment

The coastline is a complex environment which is subject to great stresses and strains. Imagine living at the sea’s edge all year round: the almost constant battering of the wind, the burning sun, the salt, etc. The forms of life which grow in this environment need plenty of courage!
The sea’s influence can be felt far from the sea itself; even so, several rare species of plant manage to grow here. Each of these has evolved by adapting to the constraints of their environment, for example by growing towards the wind or by covering themselves in hair. These plants possess more than one secret weapon when it comes to self-protection!

The Mediterranean shallows: a biodiversity ‘hotspot’

The Mediterranean shoreline is often defined as one of the world’s biodiversity ‘hotspots’. Scientists estimate that almost 60% of species here are habitat-specific, and almost 20% are threatened with imminent extinction. This is partly due to the great variety of habitats in the Mediterranean shallows. At the Domaine du Rayol there are rocky shores, sandy shores and Neptune grass beds; each of these different habitats contains a remarkable diversity of animal and plant species.
The DPM (Domaine Public Maritime – Public Maritime Zone), entrusted to the Domaine du Rayol Association and described as the garden’s 11th landscape, is living evidence of the natural wealth contained in this environment.

A whole world that needs protecting

This exhibition aims to raise awareness of the incredible capacity to adapt demonstrated by marine species. Using the examples of Neptune grass and other iconic species, it describes their characteristics, how they have adapted to their environment, what threatens them, etc. and informs us about the appropriate actions that can be taken in order to protect these areas from the results of human impact.