Mixing old and new buildings is a difficult art. Get it right and it is thrilling; get it wrong and history will condemn you. Jonathan Glancey explains.
Writing in the Architectural Review,1 William Curtis, an English architectural historian based in France, made the connection between what he saw as the vandalism caused at Ronchamp by Renzo Piano’s new buildings and the break-in. The site, he says, “has been transformed and commercialised as a tourist destination, even with a sliding electric gate barring the route to the Chapel. In effect it has become a sort of gated community with outward signs of prosperity. Nor should one forget the sums involved: over 10m euros to build the ensemble of the Piano project.” The new buildings – which also include the vandalised pavilion – are a part of a controversial new convent dug into the hillside close to the chapel for the Pauvres Clarisses nuns, who, says Curtis, “enjoy an environment which is far from poor in a material sense.”
So here is a case of new buildings next to a historic monument accused of causing both cultural and criminal vandalism. Not only have the new buildings encouraged mass tourism at Ronchamp which, Curtis believes, is now on the way to becoming a mini-Lourdes rather than a place of quiet contemplation, but they are enticing thieves who see rich pickings here from the increasing commercialisation of this special site. As for the quality of the new buildings, “Wading through Piano’s pointless concrete planes”, says Curtis, “is like listening to enforced muzak before rising to the sublimity of Bach or Mozart.”
- 1. ref: http://www.architectural-review.com/view/vandalism-and-neglect-at-ronchamp/8657913.article