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Thursday24 July 2014

Le Corbusier's Ronchamp chapel stirs passions online

Petition in support of the Piano scheme
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An online war is pitting some of the biggest names in world architecture against each other in a bid to influence the French Minister of Culture over the future of Le Corbusier’s world famous Ronchamp chapel.

Cesar Pelli, Richard Meier and Rafael Moneo are among the signatories of a petition launched by the Le Corbusier Foundation to block Renzo Piano’s £6.4 million “barbaric” scheme for the Notre Dame du Haut chapel – a world heritage site - which includes new visitor facilities and accommodation for nuns.

Despite most of the newbuild being located underground, the petition, which has nearly 1500 supporters, says there is a duty to preserve the site stating: “The refusal to transmit what was bequeathed us, opens avenues to all forms of barbarity.”

However the Renzo Piano Building Workshop has launched a counter petition together with the client, the Association Oeuvre Notre Dame du haut. It has nearly 250 signatories including Massimiliano Fuksas, Eva Jiricna and Peter Cook as well as Tony Fretton, David Adjaye, Julia Barfield and former RIBA president Frank Duffy.

Renzo Piano Building Workshop’s project architect Paul Vincent said the foundation’s use of inflammatory language for its online petition propagated lies about his firm’s designs, which he says has the full support of the French government. “The internet is a war machine – it can be very dangerous when used like this. The foundation’s language is outrageous and misleading.

“Many people who have signed its petition did not see our project –including Richard Meier. There is a perception that we are building a hotel! We’ve sent him our scheme and we hope he will change his mind.”

“We’re surprised by the foundation’s view – Le Corbusier saw the chapel as a social building – not just as an iconic sculpture.”

Vincent added that his firm would meet with culture minister Christine Albanel next week to present the final plans, a necessity for French projects dealing with heritage sites.

Duffy, who first visited the site over forty years ago, said the Piano scheme was clearly respectful. “It’s exactly what is needed at Ronchamp. The entrance to the site is marred by an awful carpark and outbuildings, and their removal and Piano’s newbuild is entirely right.”

The foundation was unavailable for comment.

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Readers' comments (5)

What do you think should happen to the chapel?

  • Although I would generally not be in support of the mass solution to input a project into the earth on slopped sites, I do not have any problem with Renzo Pianos scheme. Le Corbusier im sure would be grateful that a firm like Renzo Piano has this scheme. Best of Luck!

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  • Meier may be a tad miffed at the fact that a good amount of his bread/butter museum/cultural work has been on the wane (not to mention Ara Pacis' flop) I get it. Looks like Piano is RM's new archenemy after the High Museum augmentation.

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  • Profession Architecture. I remember my first time arriving at Rochamp and the view of the Chapel Notre Dame du Haut on the hill top. Magnificent ! Notre Dame du Haut is a building in which the view of its lonely position is as much a symbol of austerity as of beauty. The combination of these two moods created by the architecture in its setting signifies what is noble in humankind. A Steppenwolf as lonely and wild as it is beautiful. Any building which impacts this solitude is disquieting. When there are alternatives sites can we not refrain from changing this one? I for one would happily do without a soft drink at the top of the hill or even a place to sit and would endure allot of discomfort to see this site as it is. Yours Hugo Hardy

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  • Change. We are talking about longevity of the architecture versus the functionality of place. If the Chapel's organizers have gone through so much trouble of as to commissioning Renzo Piano to do the work, obviously, there is a need? No? I think we architects take ourselves and the idealism of the profession too serious. We ought to let nature take its course, things will change, let things evolve and die. Perhaps the new generation of architects do not feel as strongly about Le Corbusier's work as the previous. Sometimes the myth of the man is just that-a myth. We should trust the clients more. Afterall it is their money and their building. Renzo Piano's scheme is understated and hidden from the general approach to Ronchamp. It doesn't take away the austerity of Corbusier's Ronchamp. If you look from the sustainability point of view, thinking green, thinking environment, thinking about people and not only about architects, Piano's scheme is alright.

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  • I consider myself a scholar on le-corbusier and one thing i understand is that his architecture was never static. His style changed drastically over the years in retrospect to his ever discerning studies of what his architecture is and what should be. Preservation does not mean the site should be as is but allowed to grow and age and rejuvinate as time passes, just like any thing else in nature. that is true preservation. I don't think le corbusier would want his master piece turned into a museum showcased piece, that's not what his architecture is about. I have not seen any evidence in Piano's design that marrs the nature of ronchamps. i would say, well done sir, and go ahead. And let's try to keep politics out of this

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