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Ronchamp: Rehabilitation of the Bourlemont Site

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Honourable Christine Albanel Minister of Culture Your Excellency, The Chapel of Notre-Dame du Haut, Le Corbusier s remarkable oeuvre in Ronchamp, attracts at least a hundred thousand visitors every year. They come from Europe, America, Africa and Asia; their motivations are varied, sometimes complementary: lovers of sacred art, lovers of nature, fans of Le Corbusier, architecture students, pilgrims, etc. They are all moved and captivated by the beauty, the peace and the spirituality of this place. The current environment of the Chapel of Ronchamp is in dire need of renovation; visitors are left on an asphalt parking lot in front of a cold and dull visitors center. The parking lot and the visitors center should disappear as quickly as possible! It is essential that this hostile environment be reconsidered, as it does not respect the Chapel. The hill must be brought back to its original state and the clearing with the views of the Chapel must be restored. The Association of Notre-Dame du Haut, which was Le Corbusier s General Contractor, is owner of the site, the buildings and the image of the Chapel as stipulated by Le Corbusier s written will. In 2005 we decided to rehabilitate the site in order to bestow an environment worthy of the Chapel, thereby restoring it to its full value. This could only be done discreetly, humbly, so as to respect the history and geography of the landscape. To ensure the integrity of the Chapel and to respect the memory of the site constructed 53 years ago by this great Master of Architecture is of paramount importance. We looked for a new architect who could understand all these constraints, one who would agree to fuse with the hill, to skim it and, above all, not to clash with Le Corbusier. It took quite some time, your Excellency, to find Renzo Piano and talk him into this daring project. It also took a lot of effort and patience together with Michel Corajoud to make this unique project sing. The project is, above all, about humbleness, respect, harmony and subtle, almost invisible work. Renzo Piano and Michel Corajoud wanted to move the new reception area away from its forefront position, making it more discreet; they decided to landscape the car park completely so that the beautiful views of the Chapel could be at last appreciated as one reaches the crest of the hill. The architecture, thus, is partly sunken in order to fuse with the hill, letting landscape overcome construction and join it elegantly. We were keen to improve the reception for individuals and groups, as well as to facilitate research on Le Corbusier. Obviously, all this would be within the discretion of a buried habitat. We had no desire to affect the historical route, the access to the Chapel or the clearing. It was necessary to inhabit the hill, to maintain a discreet and spiritual presence that would welcome anyone desiring to give Life to this place, to give it its Meaning, thereby respecting the will of our architect, Le Corbusier. It was necessary to make it alive in order to prevent it from becoming, within time, an artificial place, a place stripped of meaning. We are well aware of the possible stakes, for we do live in this place. We love the Chapel and we need to breathe new life into it. We have therefore opened a portion of the west part of the slope to a community of contemplative Poor Clare nuns who will inhabit the place for 99 years. They will welcome all who wish into twelve small rooms excavated into the hill and hidden from the Chapel. Renzo Piano has spent many hours with his team, Michel Corajoud â

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