Vote in the Carcassonne Chateau Challenge!

Late last year we reported on the launch of the Carcassonne Architects Challenge – an initiative dreamt up by John Spence in his role as esteemed Visiting Fellow at prestigious US University UCLA, in the School of Architecture – one of several distinguished fellowships he has been awarded over the years.  

There is nothing like hands on experience and this is precisely what Karma Group was able to offer the talented UCLA architecture students by whisking them off to the South West of France and on a special field trip to our very own Karma Chateau de Samary, where they were charged with coming up with fully realised redevelopment plans, stretching their creativity like never before. 

The students were charged with redesigning the top floor of the main chateau and reimagining the pool house area on the grounds to make it a more appealing gathering ground for guests. They were also invited to propose additional lodgings and hospitality offerings across the property’s expansive gardens and grounds. 

The new designs need to be sympathetic to the history and culture of the property, which dates back to the 19th century, standing out as cutting edge contemporary designs while also complementing the stunning Languedoc location. We’re delighted to report that the students have now completed their work – and it is now up to our Members to vote on their favourite designs. 

So now it’s over to you! You can view the new designs and cast your votes below. The winning student will be gifted a seven-night stay at a Karma Group property.

Vote for Your Favourite Design Below

House of Relaxation

Water Falls…

Echo of Season

Sculpted Movements

The Bird Nest

Horizon Villa

Sauna and Soundscape

Cultivating Connections

Underground Oasis

A Patchwork in the Forest


  1. Cultivating Connections , keeping with tradition but also quite modern, and good for the environment, keeping it interesting.

  2. My first choice would be a patchwork in the forest. Having. Stayed at the chateaux I would not like to see anything done to the original building that might spoil its originality.

  3. The students are to be commended for their creativity and John Spence for his innovative thinking. This student resource could be utilised for many such projects.

    All these proposals appear to have merit and do not have to be mutually exclusive. Dependent on the commercial objectives of the Karma Group and the feasibility studies in terms of planning permissions and financing, my preference would be to integrate and pursue a number of these proposals to eventually enable the Chateau to be sustainable and self financing through the entire year. In order of preference
    1) Horizon Villas 2) underground oasis
    3) Sauna and Soundscape 4) cultivating connections 5) patchwork in forest 6) bird’s nest

  4. This project was a genius idea! The students have worked well, researching the area and using their skills, imagination and creativity to answer the design brief. Well done! However only one design retains and sympathetically builds on the chateau and seems financially achievable. That is the sauna and sounds cape. The suggestion of a way to utilise the chateau in winter when it is normally closed is brilliant and achievable opening many new opportunities for Karma. The design horizon villa is a brilliant and achievable way to answer chateau de Samary’s biggest issue – a lack of accommodation. This design enables great use of the vast and beautiful grounds, providing unique and luxurious accommodation and as importantly – privacy and a feeling of one with the surroundings

    1. Thank you for your great feedback Denise, we agree that is it so interesting to see the creative talents of the students and how they utilise the space within our grounds! We will be sure to pass on your feedback and your vote has been counted!

  5. This one appeals to a more basic of nature. More open space without the imposing buildings and the integration of both. THe greater area of the grape growing suites the farm/resort style better.

  6. All the projects are quite innovative and not mutually exclusive. My preference is not to interfere with the structure of the chateau itself, so my votes go to Underground Oasis, Cultivating Connections, Horizon Villa and a Patchwork in the Forest.

    1. It sounds like you have a keen eye for preserving historical integrity and we really appreciate it. Thank you for voting, Ingrid!

  7. My vote is for ‘Cultural Connections’. I would definitely not like to see any alterations to the original building. I feel that it is extremely important to preserve the original architecture as it is which complies with the Karma ethos of improving the area while maintaining its integrity.
    Cultural Connections would enhance the appeal for visitors while continuing local traditions, would marry nicely with the love wine already so much part of Karma and sustainably produce fresh produce for the restaurant. Who wouldn’t want to wander around a beautiful, intesting, sustainable area which integrates perfectly with culture and tradition then go for a delicious meal in the restaurant made from produce grown on site?

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