Last week, Renzo Piano attended the opening of his newest addition to the site of Le Corbusier’s Notre Dame du Haut in Ronchamp, France. Commissioned by the Association Oeuvre Notre Dame du Haut, Piano was asked to design a small visitors’ center and convent for the Poor Clare nuns who live on the grounds. When first announced in 2008, the project was in the midst of controversy as an online debate of petitions against the project – signed by Moneo, Meier and Pelli – was sent to France’s minister of culture, only to be countered with a petition in support of the project, including names such as Fuksas and Ando. Even with the conflict, Piano remained cool and collected…and a perfect fit for the job. In addition to his personal love of Le Corb’s project, Piano’s works have a certain air of sensitivty about them, a characteristic that would produce a work not to overshadow nor compete with, yet respectfully support, Corbusier’s masterpiece. “I love Le Corbusier’s building. For me, it’s a masterpiece. He made one of the most beautiful places of meditation in the world,” Piano told Arch Record. More about the convent after the break.
Although only 300 ft away from Le Corb’s church, Piano decided to cut into the slope of the hill so as to not intrude on the presence nor setting of the building. Mostly hidden underground, Piano’s small incisions offer a peaceful space as it opens on to the landscape and allows sunlight to flood the interiors.
Organizationally, the chapel sits closest to Le Corb’s church, while the lower level holds small dwellings for the nuns, and the visitors center rests near the site’s existing parking lot. The old rose colored visitors center has been demolished as it used to be highly visible and distract from the entrance of the Church.
In typical Piano style, the material palette is simplistic and the forms elegant which create a functional and passively beautiful space.
As much of the project is covered with earth, landscape plays a major role of the project. According to Arch Record, by May 2012, Michel Corajoud’s landscaping will be complete so the full manifestation of Piano’s vision will be evident.
Piano told Arch Record, “Fundamentally, I think the entire hill has gained a lot. It’s cleaner, simpler, and clearer, and you don’t have the interference of that rose house [the visitors’ center], which was a disaster there.” Source: Architectural Record