CLUNY (FR) - The legendary Cluny Abbey, dating from the early Middle Ages, is situated near Mâcon in Burgundy. Its Romanesque, Cistercian architecture was influential throughout Europe from the 10th century. Its church, for a long time the largest Christian building in the Western world, was quarried for its stone after the French Revolution. All that remains today is a magical site containing a number of beautiful buildings, the enclosure walls and the great bell tower.
The 18th-century buildings are nowadays occupied by the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts et Métiers, which recently decided that it needed a small restaurant. Located at the entrance to the Cluny site, against the medieval surrounding wall, the new restaurant is a two-storey building. Its triangular geometric form recreates the outer limits of the partially destroyed ancient walls. Integrated into its context, the building appears and disappears as you pass along the wall. Like a dotted line, it is both present and absent, because you never see it in its entirety. This work of integration generates an abstract composition based on the juxtaposition of two raw materials: old Burgundy stone and pre-rusted weathering steel.
The graft has been successfully assimilated and this is no doubt because the two materials together form an abstract and harmonious landscape. This dialogue between historical and contemporary architecture works because rather than confrontation it involves a smooth transition, a substitution. Like the old walls, the plates of Indaten steel that cover facades and roof reveal their constructional logic, their thicknesses, their layout plan. This attention to raw material is carried into the interior, where the exposed concrete shell retains the marks of the planks used for the formwork.
The beauty of the pre-rusted steel lies not only in the irregularity of its appearance, which ranges from steely grey to brown and orange, but above all in its slow metamorphosis, integrating time as a poetic element. But the material is often misunderstood; its rusty appearance tends to alarm people. How did Bernard Desmoulin convince his client, one wonders. In response to this question the architect recalls that 'on the competition drawings, the members of the jury thought it was wood. I then had to reassure them'. The result speaks for itself. Bernard Desmoulin won the Prix de l'Équerre d'Argent in 2009, awarded annually by Le Moniteur group for the best French building completed in the past year. (Xavier Gonzalez)
Conversion, Metal |