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Could there ever be a naked metropolis? Phil Hoad exposes himself to nude urbanism. We were born naked, but no one shows you the way back. What now? A stark forecourt stretches out imposingly ahead. Is there somewhere to change, I ask the guard on the gate, as a group of baseball-capped l stride blithely through. He nods at a set of lockers. But hauling down my kecks right here at the entrance feels wrong.
Only one thing for it: do as naturists do, and make for nature. The entry procedure is a bit unforgiving, but beyond is something unique: a fully functioning town with largely naked citizenrywhich grows to 40, in the summer. But every facet of ordinary city life is here, too: a bank, a post office, several supermarkets, concrete arcades lined with hairdressers, fishmongers, opticians and clothes boutiques.
Throughout, fully dressed staff a formality that apparently developed of its own accord cater, with surreal nonchalance, to the great unclothed. Nothing on this scale exists anywhere else in the world. Most naturist resorts are arcadian retreats from city life. Last year, Munich created six urban naked zonesbut they were in secluded parkland.
Inthe supposedly skin-friendly San Francisco chose to outlaw public nudityexcept in specially sanctioned public events. Originally, there were no plans to incorporate naturism, but someone changed their mind. The Oltra brotherswho owned the original campsite, helped shepherd plans for a purpose-built naturist village, which began to rise out of the local marshes in the early s.
Nothing here is higher than four storeys, so shadows do not impinge. Minimalism is definitely de rigueur on the pubic-hair front. Apparently the only unshaven person in town, I parade down the sands feeling like a recently unfrozen Neanderthal yet to discover waxing. At the western end of the beach — where nudity is mandatory — a channel marks the village limits. So the barrier is indispensable. Only this strict cordon — inside which photography is forbidden — allows the freedom inside to exist. It is a rivalry adored by the media, many outlets of which held radical naturists responsible for a spate of late-noughties fires at sex clubs.
Fetishwear shops are ubiquitous. So policing a naked city requires a light touch, relying on the clubs to keep their own houses in order and liaising carefully with private security to intervene when necessary.
It is a quite broad church: grandmothers and grandkids, women walking chained submissives, middle-aged couples in tasselled sarongs, cock-ringed Languedocian farmers. But I see nothing racier than one lofty Adonis flirting with a sunburnt couple in the sea, and none of the sexual harassment that is sometimes reported. Petty crime is supposedly lower on the beach than anywhere else in the city. But that masks search for nudes by town growing sense of neglect. Virtually everyone I speak to points out the battered ro, the overflowing bins, the drains clogged with sand.
Le Couteur also bears some responsibility. His grand idealism lacked flexibility: in his zeal for pedestrianism he pushed major ro to the edge of the city, and failed to anticipate the growing s of people who would want to drive up to the gate; now, the lack of parking space is another bugbear.
Parking and ro are top of the agenda for Ambition Agdea major redevelopment programme; it also includes plans to roll out soft-transport options, like the electric buggies used at the Oltra campsite, to the entire village. But perhaps its real genius lies in the realm of human relations. If this dangly utopia could be scaled up to metropolis size, it would have one great advantage: the social levelling effect of riding around with your dick drooping over your bicycle seat.
True, the village has developed its own version of a class divide — naturists v swingers — but there is more overlap and intercourse between the two clans than the French media portray.
Sat on the terrace overlooking the sea, Walker hails his nude regulars as they stream past on the boardwalk. Follow Guardian Cities on Twitter and Facebook and the discussion. This article is more than 5 years old. Photograph: Tumblr. Phil Hoad in Cap d'Agde, France. Thu 27 Aug Tokyo without : Japan's capital stripped bare — in pictures.
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