By Laurent Duport, RMHF 2014
This project of Le Corbusier is familiar to me since I participated in 1987, thanks to Danièle Pauly in setting up two exhibitions celebrating the centenary of Le Corbusier’s birth, one in Marseille at
the Museum of Old Charity (Le Corbusier and the Mediterranean), the other in Paris at the Centre Georges Pompidou (The adventure Le Corbusier).
For almost thirteen years now I went to Ronchamp three times, and each visit to different situations.
At the first, in the summer of 2000, I had the opportunity to “escort” Kenneth Frampton, Ware Professor at the Graduate School of Architecture at Columbia University in the Summer Program he leaded titled “Le Corbusier revisited”. Prof. Frampton returned there for the second time, his first was in the mid-fifties, around the opening. I, on this day, listened with great interest the comments in particular on the sense of place, on this hill side of the chapel, the pyramid of Peace, a memorial in honor of soldiers who died for the liberation of Ronchamp in 1944, on the landscape, and on the plastic of the architecture described in Prof. Frampton’s book “Le Corbusier, architect of the Twentieth Century”
The second visit, six years later, was with my 2nd year students from the Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Montpellier. Height of the previous visit it was to transmit a personal perspective enriched with reading articles and comments so far on the building.
The third visit, the most recent but also most personal, was held in 8 to 11 September 2011 with my parents, on the invitation of Dominique Claudius Petit to attend the opening of the gatehouse performed by Renzo Piano and his team and the landscape architect Michel Corajoud.
Without going back on the polemics related to this project it is here to witness a highlight of this place and atmosphere that emanated. Over these days, a series of events were punctuated by visits to all buildings on the site, including the chapel of Le Corbusier with a return to his original vocation of worship punctuated by moments of celebrations inside as outside in its immediate vicinity and beyond.
In January 2014 a stained glass window original of the chapel, the stained glass of the moon is destroyed during a burglary. Among all the windows painted by Le Corbusier, he was the only one to be signed. Beyond the stupidity of this gesture that recent news raises the question of ignorance of the heritage value of the building and what it consists. It is not certain that the security of the site (previously preserved, with the exception of a recent gate rightly criticized by the historian William Curtis) by fences (!) or cameras (!) is likely to prevent any future damage.
Let us bet that the year 2015, the 60th anniversary of the construction of the chapel, will be the occasion, around June 25, to get to Ronchamp to unite around this exemplary architecture, pilgrims, architecture fans young and old or simple tourists to celebrate what Le Corbusier called “the unspeakable space.”