Azay-le-Rideau: Project of the Century?

Château d'Azay-le-Rideau Photo © CMN

Château d’Azay-le-Rideau
Photo © CMN

The Centre des Monuments Nationaux (CMN), under the impulse of its President, Philippe Bélaval, is restoring the Château of Azay-le-Rideau, a gem in the Loire Valley.  The site has been on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage monuments since November 30, 2000. This 16th-century « venerable lady », built on an island in the Indre River between Chinon and Tours, has remained remarquably authentic, probably as the King François I knew it.

Benefitting from a 7 million-euro allocation, the work began in 2015 under the supervision of Arnaud de Saint Juan, Inspecteur en Chef de Monuments Historiques.  He estimates three years necessary for completion and foresees 100 years of prolonged life for the château. Continue reading

The Pont du Gard and the Pont de Roquefavour

Le Pont du Gard
© Benh Lieu Song 2014

It is impossible to imagine the effect which this granite chain linking two mountains produces, this rainbow made of stone which fills the whole horizon,  these three levels of porticos which eighteen centuries of sun have gilded.   I have seen several of the wonders of the world, but I have never seen anything which is as beautiful, as grand, as pure, as this magnificent granite epic which is called Le Pont du Gard.

 — Alexandre Dumas

To reinforce their prestige and domination throughout their many conquests, all the emperors of ancient Rome established towns during a thousand year period.

Searching for a place to settle, the Romans considered water as a “symbol of life”. To be able to build fountains, water tanks, latrines, artisan workshops or thermal baths, indispensable to the life of the city, the Romans had to be able to channel water as close as possible to the populations.

Aqueducts — a word formed from the two Latin words aqua (water) and ducere (to drive) — were therefore constructed by the builders of ancient times and nowadays Roman aqueducts, still visible, allow water to travel from source for a long way. Continue reading

The original structure of an olive-oil mill in the heart of Andalucia.

The original structure of an olive-oil mill in the heart of Andalucia.

By Jacqueline Mainguy.   Having lived in this property for seven generations, the descendants of one family, Paco Nunez de Prado and his two brothers Antonio Luis and Felipe have worked together, constantly restoring the estate to perpetuate the know-how … Continue reading

Franco American Study Day on May 29, 2015

By Jacqueline Mainguy.

The idea for this gathering germinated when Michèle le Menestrel-Ullrich met with Catherine Graindorge, Director of Studies and Research at the Ecole de Chaillot. They developed and organized todays program with the active assistance of Florence Jeanjean for RMH Prize and Lydie Fouilloux for the Ecole de Chaillot. I hasten to thank them all.

Our school has strong links with this Organization since 1990, after a $25,000 prize was awarded to an architect working in the field of patrimony. This Prize is attributed one year to a French architect; the next year to an American. It offers a study period in France or in America on a patrimonial subject. To date, there have been 26 Fellows and 2 Scholars of whom 12 had a degree from the Ecole de Chaillot.

Today we will be given the opportunity to hear 11 Fellows and Scholars present the work they carried out during their Prize study. Two Fellows came especially from the USA to be here today.

For the elaboration of our program, they were asked to present their research project; for some in the USA for others in France, to define their initial objectives and stakes, to analyse the rewards of the experience and explain in what ways this research program established, confirmed and oriented their professional practices.

Among todays speakers and personalities who gave support our meeting and who will share their experiences with us, I would especially like to thank Mr. Philip Frayne, Minister-Cousellor for Public Affairs, from the American Embassy in France who will open this afternoons’ session, and Mr. Philippe Belaval, President of the Caisse des Monuments Nationaux, member of the RMHP Jury who will put the mondialization of patrimony into perspective. Mr. Alain Marinos, Inspecteur Général des Monuments Historiques, member of the RMH P Jury, will share his thoughts on patrimonies and cultures.

The role of the RMH Prize is essential for architects working on patrimony. For 26 years now it has played a large role in Franco-American exchanges.

Todays study program should illuminate the combined research work concerning patrimony thanks to the RMH Prize, to suggest new themes for future research projects and for a better diffusion of their accomplishments and to renew them in coming years. Today has its place at the crux of the Ecole de Chaillots’ multiple actions which are research, the USA, training of AVE
and international.

On the international scene, in many countries, the Ecole de Chaillot is an active participant in the training of architects who wish to specialize in the field of patrimony. It pursues its implication with partnerships in Bulgaria, in Morocco and in Cambodia and leads workshops in Italy, Greece
and China. There are approximately 130 non-French students here at Chaillot in France or at other institutions with whom Chaillot collaborates closely.

As for research in 2013 the Ecole created an activity, under the leadership of Catherine Graindorge, which, as of now, has two facets.The first facet is to provide acces to a Doctorate in a partnership with the Université Paris 1 (Pantheon-Sorbonne) in order to convey and spread out the patrimony expertise of Chaillot. The official signature of this convention will be signed on June 23, 2015. It encompasses three doctoral schools….archeology, history and history of art and geography. It forsees the creation of a continuing-education doctorate.

The second facet is that of annual study days concerning restauration and conservation projects in all eras, on all scales and on the history of doctrines. The last day of study questioned the heritage of Viollet le Duc in teaching as well as its scientific basis. The next study day is scheduled for December and the subject will be the mastery of a work and the role of numeric tools in patrimony. The meeting will be in collaboration with the laboratory Modeles et Simulations pour l’Architecture et le Patrimoine (UMR CNRS) and the Ministère de la Culture et Communication.

After studying in Paris and Cambridge, Michèle le Menestrel-Ullrich became interested in historic preservation which gave her the incentive to start the American association Friends of Vieilles Maisons Françaises, officially incorporated in 1982 in the United States as a non-profit association. It was re-named French Heritage Society in 2002. As of 1990 Michèle le Menestrel -Ullrich founded the Richard Morris Hunt Fellowship with the American Architectural Foundation. She now co-chairs this outstanding program, designed for architects specializing in conservation and restauration of built patrimony. Since 2009, this $25,000 prize has been generously donated by Lafarge.

So now I will pass the microphone over to her…