Oppidum’s Multi-Million Dollar Underground Sanctuary: The Interview with Architect Marc Prigent

Oppidum/ Marc Prigent

Underground cities, underground homes associated with above ground homes, bunkers, shelters, even cultures within cities, have been with us for millennia.  But as regards millennia, our is the only civilization where an actual apocalypse, whether natural or human made, has been reason enough for building substantial underground residences.  Now a company named Oppidum, has taken it multiple steps beyond – in the creation of multi-million-dollar underground luxury sanctuaries, costing, generally between $40M to $100M and over. 

Oppidum/IBP Media

Oppidum is a company that creates fortified underground residences and has recently unveiled its new L’ Heritage series, for those whose need for the balance of security and luxury living, no matter what is going on above ground.  Designed by the French architect Marc Prigent, his design aim was in provision of a secure location for UHNW individuals during what the brand calls unprecedented times.

Oppidum’s underground residences, unlike bunkers and bomb shelters and catacombs of old, offer complete home and business environments, with over 10,000 square feet of space. In addition, the residences can be customized with the option of choosing extra facilities such as a private art gallery, a garage substantial enough to house the owner’s car collection, meeting lounges, indoor gardens, and a spa with private pool.  

BUT no matter how elite the art or the garden amenities, the raison d’etre for these residences is security. The entrance offers fortified blast doors, controlled by a multi-biometric me areter that simultaneously scans face, iris, palm, and fingerprints, so only the owner and designated others may enter.  In addition, all residences come equipped with an integrated security system with military-grade protection. 

JustLuxe communicated recently with the French architect Marc Prigent, about the designs and meanings of these unique, highly secure residences. We are grateful for the time he took with us. 

Oppidum/IBP Media

JustLuxe:  Have you ever architected any project like Oppidum before?  Please explain your background and how you see the Oppidum project as defining sanctuary as well as security?

Mr. Prigent: The idea of designing a subterranean residence was something I never considered. My experience involves working with five-star hotels like designing with Four Seasons Paris and many other luxury properties where we created elite interiors of all kinds. 

All Oppidum underground living spaces include incredibly high volumes of space, with innovative layouts, and spatial functionality. My Futurist design for Oppidum, for example, is a modern-day castle with a minimalist, contemporary approach defined by smooth shapes, bright whites, and peaceful, calm areas. Initially, we divided the space into four different parts with public areas for business, a private area for family, an expansive gallery for art, and a fourth area that housed all the necessary technical components to keep the residence running optimally. 

We are the only subterranean living space builder that serves this high-end of the marketplace. The levels of luxury, design, and construction only makes sense to certain people. Oppidum balance the highest level of comfort with the highest level of security. 

Oppidum/IBP Media

JustLuxe: In the video, there is what looks like an underground garden. How is this accomplished without sunlight?

Mr. Prigent: At Oppidum, we must design a complete atmosphere to create the feeling of comfort in every room. Lighting technology is key in our success as we give clients the feeling of openness, expansiveness, exactly like their everyday, above ground surroundings. 

Indirect light from the ceiling is used. And the second light is the patio, which has an artificial skylight used to create the feeling of day and night. Using the same artificial skylight, Oppidum also weaves in seasonality via the patio through our screens. Not every day is the same, so there must be variation on display to create comfort and establish a sense of normalcy. The complexity of the light design in every room is remarkable. Each space has its own specific requirements engineered to change throughout a 24-hour period.

JustLuxe: How long can the Oppidum residence or sanctuary maintain itself, electronically, and as regards food and water?

Mr. Prigent: The hidden technology that sustains life underground is housed in a suite of technical rooms. The principal systems operate completely autonomously, requiring no human intervention, with backup circuits that deploy instantly. Oppidum has two independent air filtration units. The primary unit is designed for ordinary peacetime use; the secondary unit is a military-grade chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) system. Oppidum is fully airtight and gastight and can be completely isolated from the outside atmosphere if required. A unique high-pressure air reserve and internal circulation enables occupants to breathe normally and safely for up to a month.

The air filtration unit is equipped with a CO2 removal system; combined with an auxiliary oxygen supply, this provides breathable air when there is insufficient or no fresh air entering the building. Water is supplied from deep underground by a private well, entirely independent of the public supply. In case of a power outage, blackout, or instability in the

grid, the power system seamlessly switches to one of its multiple fail-safe alternative power sources, including twin diesel generators and back-up batteries. Applying thinking and technology from NASA, the storerooms contain stocks of long-lasting but highly nutritious food, sufficient for months or even years; the separate medical room has its own secure storage for essential medical supplies.

Oppidum/IBP Media

JustLuxe: In the video also, there is a part of the residence that may allow for a private art gallery. How is that environment that contains the art, in terms of temperature, sustained?

Mr. Prigent: With the collection and preservation of fine art often a focal point for Oppidum clients, the Futurist model serves many purposes. First, the Futurist protects clients while also preserving one-of-a-kind pieces in the setting of a modern art gallery underneath the home. Oppidum delivers the bank-level security of a vault in a special space specifically made for properly showcasing, lighting, and preserving each piece and objet d’art.

It’s paired with state-of-the-art technologies including blast protection, air tightness, off-grid power, temperature control and other more advanced technological equipment protecting clients from anything in the world, including safeguarding these fine art pieces.

JustLuxe: In terms of complete security, how deep into the earth must this environment, this secure sanctuary be built and how long does it take to build one?  

Mr. Prigent: Each Oppidum build must respect geological conditions, location, size, and many other factors on the client’s property. In terms of size, it depends on the model selected by the client (e.g., Model L’Heritage requires at least 3 000 square meters) With this in mind, we work with each client to design their ideal space by taking location, size, and fit out into consideration prior to building. Building an Oppidum can take about 3 to 5 years involving a team that has decades of construction experience and turns each Oppidum into a new luxury sanctuary. 

Oppidum/IBP Media

JustLuxe:  Is there any place, in terms of water levels or soil erosion, where the Oppidum sanctuary cannot be built?  What is the ideal area for a residence to be built?

Mr. Prigent: Local geological and hydrological conditions have a major impact on each Oppidum’s design and construction as well, so multiple surveys are conducted in the project’s early stages to ensure it is suitable for the build. If the land isn’t safe to build one of these subterranean residences, Oppidum will not begin the construction process.  There is no real “ideal area” for an Oppidum residence from the geographical point of view. We work with clients to define their combination of want and need, and then go from there.

Oppidum/IBP Media

JustLuxe: What are the price points of your residences? 

Mr. Prigent: The price of an Oppidum design depends primarily on factors such as location, size, and fit out. Oppidum offers models around the $10M range, while the new Futurist design costs approximately $40M. For clients wanting to add other elements of customization in terms of layout, unique requests such as a large garage space, art gallery, vault room, etc., the price will continue to rise. Our L’Heritage model has a price range around $100M due to the sheer level of detail and luxury that goes into the design. No other company offers the same painstaking level of design work and customization that Oppidum does, which is reflected by the price point.

JustLuxe: What is your next project?

Mr. Prigent: The Futurist model is Oppidum’s latest development and will be a truly one-of-a-kind residence. It is essentially a modern-day castle built as a subterranean fortress that keeps unwanted guests out. It has more of a minimalist design than the L’Heritage model, which is all about luxury and implementing as many amenities as possible. It’s interesting that different clients want different things from their living spaces, and Oppidum aims to tailor each subterranean residence to each specific client.

Susan Kime

Susan Kime's career combines publishing, journalism and editing. She was the Destination Club/Fractional Update Editor for Elite Traveler, and senior club news correspondent for The Robb Report's Vacation Homes. Her work has been published in Stratos, Luxury Living, European CEO, The London Telegraph, Caviar Affair, ARDA Developments, and Luxist/AOL. She was the Editor-in-Chief of Travel Conno...(Read More)

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