Ronchamp - How Piano undermines Le Corbusier

The chapel of Notre Dame du Haut in Ronchamp is one out of many renowned buildings by Le Corbusier.
It is the first day of our road trip through France and I insisted on a visit to the building I’ve seen and read so much about. Especially during these rural times...

Once we reached the village of Ronchamp it didn’t take us long to find the Rue de la Chapelle. At the end of the road we found the parking lot and the building site of the new visitor center by Renzo Piano.

We paid an entrance fee and recieved an audio guide at a temporary information center housed in a shed of approximately 10 square metres next to the parking lot.

After a little stroll we reached the summit. Yet another prove that photo’s and drawings can never express how space and form are perceived by the beholder.

Paradoxically hereby some photo’s I took:

Facing the south wall

The belltower

As I said we encountered a building site on arrival - Renzo Piano’s additions to the chapel are highly controversial. There is allready spoken and written a lot about the hoopla around Ronchamp.

First there was a petition ‘For the safeguard of Ronchamp’s site’ - signed by notable architects like Richard Meier and Raphael Moneo - which demanded to stop the project. Then there was another petition ‘Ronchamp, the rehabilitation of Bourlémonts site’ - signed by Tadao Ando, David Adjaye and Massimiliano Fuksas among others - which endorsed Piano’s design.

Call to sign the petition ‘Ronchamp, the rehabilitation of Bourlémonts site

Now when I’m here, the mayor part of the construction has been completed. In september the buildings should be openend.

People have said: Putting more architecture on the site would dilute the place.
Other people would have liked to see another architect on the job. Someone even mentioned Rem Koolhaas - personally I think that would have ended up in a disaster. Only Zumthor sounded like a reasonable alternative to me.

Nevertheless for what I’ve seen so far Piano did an excellent job.
A distuinguished piece of humble architecture well concealed in the slope of the hill. The buidlings aren’t even visible from the top where the chapel prevails.

Section by Renzo Piano - the existing sightlines are preserved

Building site of the twelve small cells to house the Clarisse nuns

Personally I get a bit fed up with the way the world wants to preserve itself. Every municipality and every country wants to be placed on UNESCO’s list of world heritage.
Stop the over-conservatism. Most of the time change isn’t for the worse.
Ofcourse every step you take needs to be reasonable and well considered. But let’s face it - Le Corbusier’s initial plan for Ronchamp was pretty unorthodox at his time aswell...

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