Situated at the sleepy end of Saint-Jean's beach—as opposed to the airport—this prime location had stubbornly remained vacant on the popular beach in spite of the growing tourism & hospitality market on St Barts over the past 50 years. Aside from the occasional private barbecue or family beach party, very little transpired here to disrupt the tranquility of the flora and fauna.
Leveraging on the site's low-key history, a barbecue-centric restaurant and beach club were the logical best-use of the property as the landowners sought to utilize their asset but not at the expense of the natural beauty & experience of the place. Moreover, rather than committing to a permanent solution, Bureau Xavier David assisted with a project description and estimate as the real estate notaire (a French legal specialist) prepared a long-term lease to be negotiated with the restaurant & beach club operator that would minimize the footprint of any structures erected on site in respect of the natural beach milieu.
As is becoming the norm on St Barts, gaining approval for a building permit for any new structure was a challenge. In a political environment where the local citizenry is becoming more protective of undeveloped or "green" sites, it thus becomes important to work within the framework of the island community. Moreover, the beach front location of Gypsea includes specific concerns regarding the potential of ocean water surges during tropical storms and hurricanes.
Given the program of the clients (both landowner and restaurant operator) and the constraints of the site, the design solutions quickly resolved themselves. Permanent structures in concrete and stone for the Boutique, Kitchen and necessary facilities (e.g., restrooms, storage, etc.) were situated towards the interior of the property away from the beach and used to frame the entry from the land-side while obscuring sight of the services and valet parking lot from the interior of the dining and lounging spaces.
Instead, the eye is naturally drawn to the vibrant ocean view as the primary visual feature within the "theatre" of a Restaurant. Proceeding towards the water's edge of Baie de Saint-Jean, the concrete & stone material palette give way to a lighter touch of driftwood & canvas as the atmosphere transforms from a proper Restaurant into a relaxed, yet fun-filled Beach Club with activities ranging from sun bathing on a lounger to snorkeling excursions.
Reversing course and entering from the seaside or "front door", one finds a light touch as only a rope—subtly defining a threshold—resists the blurring between the public and private domains. From the Beach Club, the full view of the central Dining Hall reveals an open timber-framed structure to provide relief against the occasional rain shower and strong sunlight of the tropical climate while maintaining a foot-in-the-sand ambiance during dining hours. A Boutique and full service Bar further define and activate the edges of the grand open space while completing the client's desired program.