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La Fontaine Chaude · Dax, France

Monumental springs at the heart of a rejuvenated city centre


Located in the southwest of France, the old city of Dax, like numerous small historical cities, fell victim to the pressure created by the overwhelming presence of cars and traffic it was never designed for. This resulted in a fragmented and damaged identity, and a poor quality of stay for its inhabitants and visitors. Our design reaffirmed the area around the Fontaine Chaude water source as an origin, this time to revitalise the city.

Dax, France
2011 - 2014
Project area
1,5 ha
Municipality of Dax
OTCE Engineers, AAPP architects
Photography Credits
Pierre Marchevet


Renowned for its hot water springs since Roman times, Dax sought to rejuvenate its city centre. In 2010, the municipality embarked on a mission to reclaim the city’s quality of life and invest in promoting its touristic thermal heritage. To achieve this, we were commissioned to develop a masterplan for the pedestrianisation of the city centre and develop a design for the main historical square of the city, the Place de la Fontaine Chaude. By reorganising the square itself and the city’s traffic system, we managed to redistribute public space in favour of energising urban life.

Creator of meaningful places
Pedestrianized inner city
Waterscapes and thermal identity
Cultural landscape and heritage

The invisible made visible: Reconstruction of an identity



The magnificent ancient portal of the Fontaine Chaude, one of the city’s major hot springs and a touristic highlight, has regained its rightful place at the heart of a spacious, open and meticulously crafted paved square. The paving details and thoughtful lighting concept artfully showcase the thermal history and the collection of historical artefacts discovered on the square. The square extends in the form of an esplanade towards the east, where the former city walls become visible again. Replacing the former car parking, gardens islands and tree rows structure the open space, providing shade and attractive seasonal effects for the public.

Creator of meaningful places

The underground hot water current is highlighted by the shapes of the planting islands and by a distinctive rainwater gutter in the floor. At night-time, the effect is further enhanced by a LED lighting system. It materialises the flow of hot water and creates a magical setting for the original fountain at the centre of the square.


Public space as resource for urban life

With the pedestrian-friendly platform in place, cafés, restaurants, and shops around the square have gained enhanced visibility, accessibility, and ample terrace space. As the square now offers more space for festivities and events, it has emerged as the vibrant epicentre of the thermal city.  This has revived the environment and realised the municipal ambition.

Terraces and daily use
Market and weekly use
Feria and yearly use

The area has come alive with newfound vitality, and the square now offers more room to host festivities and events, emerging as the vibrant epicentre of the thermal city. This transformation has thus not only recaptured the essence of Dax’s heritage but also fostered a stronger sense of social cohesion and community spirit.


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