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Riviera Dreaming: Love and War on the Côte d'Azur

What do the landmark villas Le Trident, Château de l’Horizon and Villa Aujourd’hui have in common? American architect Barry Dierks. One of the most notable architects of the Côte d’Azur, Mr Dierks is credited with building or remodelling 120 homes between the 1930s and 1950s.

The cover of Maureen Emerson's Riviera Dreaming: Love and War on the Côte d'AzurIn a new biography about the architect, Riviera Dreaming: Love and War on the Côte d'Azur, Maureen Emerson describes the life and love of Barry Dierks and his lifelong partner, Eric Sawyer, who lived life to the fullest during the heyday of the region’s Art Deco period.

Barry Dierks defined the Côte d’Azur lifestyle we know and love today, but it wasn’t just his buildings that revolutionised the region — it was his concept of outdoor living and joie de vivre. At a time when the French Riviera closed down for the summer, Barry Dierks introduced open terraces, garden parties and private pools.

Author Maureen Emerson will be presenting her new book this Saturday in Antibes. Copyright: Nicole RuskellIt is through their personal villa, Le Trident, that Maureen weaves the stories of this charming couple, from the excess of the Roaring Twenties to the stark danger of Nazi-occupied France. “Le Trident is pivotal to the entire story,” says Maureen.

Split into two parts — love and war — the latter deals with the lead-up to World War II. In 1940, with Hitler rapidly advancing, most expats fled the area, but Dierks and Sawyer stayed on, working closely with the Resistance, volunteering with the Red Cross, and assisting the Scottish Tea Shop in La Turbie, which helped smuggle people to freedom.

Nearly a decade of research went into the book, which Maureen’s describes as having been ‘enthralling to write’. She was a resident of Valbonne for 22 years before returning to England, and admits that before discovering this quintessential figure, she had never heard of Barry Dierks. “I found, over time, there was a very great deal to discover.”

Her book launched on 14th April at the English Book Centre in Valbonne. They hosted a reception for Maureen, where she showed archive photographs of the couple and signed copies of the book. 

Maureen is also the author of Escape to Provence, a biography of Elisabeth Parrish Starr and Winifred Fortescue, and their life as expats in the hills of Provence (2008).

On Saturday 21st April, Maureen will be at the English book shop Antibes Books from 11am, discussing her book and signing copies.


Nicole Ruskell