Le Corbusier’s Ronchamp, Vandalized

AD Classics: / Le Corbusier. Image © Cara Hyde-Basso

Originally posted in Metropolis Magazine, Samuel Medina reports on the irreparable damage caused by vandalism at Le Corbusier’s Chapel of Ronchamp.  

On Friday, a nun gave warning that the Chapel of Ronchamp, considered by many to be one of the key architectural works of the last century, had been vandalized. When police arrived on the scene, they found signs of forced entry: a stained-glass window, one of many executed by Le Corbusier, was broken and a concrete trunk was missing. As Le Monde reports, the intruders had also attempted to gain entry via a door. The overall damage was, according to some, “priceless” because the stained-glass had borne an original illustration by Le Corbusier. An initial assessment from the department of historical monuments found the window to be irreparable.

This morning the Fondation Le Corbusier, which protects the architectural and artistic works of Le Corbusier, urged that emergency measures be taken to secure the protected site. The statement, delivered by Antoine Picon, President of the Fondation, called on the Association Oeuvre Notre-Dame-du-Haut to “better protect the heritage of the twentieth century and that of Le Corbusier in particular.” Picon also took the opportunity to point to the church’s poor structural and cosmetic state, citing in particular “moisture problems, infiltration and poor preservation of masonry.”

Ronchamp is one of Le Corbusier’s most idiosyncratic buildings. The church’s design blends traditional Catholic affects (the crucifix, an effigy of the Virgin Mary) with the architect’s own personal lexicon of symbols. The hand-painted, ceramic door on the church’s west wall contains vague, some might say, crude symbols that have little to do with the history of ecclessiastical architecture and design. The same goes for the wall of modular stained-glass windows, which recreates medieval glazing in modernist fashion. The broken stained-glass has been reported to have been signed by the architect himself, though images of the intact window seem to contradict them. Nearly 80,000 tourists visit Ronchamp annually, while the parish continues to use the church for services.

The window, here seen intact.. Image Courtesy of flickr user marco_pozzo

See the damage in this video:

Cite: Samuel Medina. "Le Corbusier’s Ronchamp, Vandalized" 20 Jan 2014. ArchDaily. Accessed 22 May 2015. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=469008>
  • Stee

    Possibly one of the ugliest structures ever built.

    • Josh

      you clearly no nothing about architecture

      • mahler76

        I am an architect and think this building is a horrible monstrosity as most of his buildings. And One broken window dose not make it a vandalism people.

      • Mike

        Nota bene: when trying to come off as intelligent, try to use proper grammar. I’m sure you already “No” that.

    • Paul

      oh stop, you obviously are a contrarian and know little to nothing about what you are contradicting. I can’t stand you people. The end of civilization.

    • karan

      he heh…how does your comment even matter

    • jackie

      possibly one of the most ingorant persons in here

  • Alexander Fernandez

    Oh Stee, I would love to see your ouvre complete to admire and learn all of your architectural wisdom. Your comment is so subjective and meaningless next to Corbu’s work! Moving on…I hope the thieves from Ronchamp don’t vandalize any of your masterpieces.

  • antonio

    Reading these negative comments confirms that we are giving architecture licences to too much uncultured people…

  • bnh_b

    What a great shame! Hope they keep up with maintenance and preserve the experience for many years to come. Aesthetics is a factor, but to fully appreciate architecture, it needs to be experienced. The experience of this church is well worth preserving.

  • Aaron

    Yes, I would think the vandalism is a small matter compared to the general condition of the building. It certainly wont make it even close to another 60 years without some serious work.

  • Valeria

    Sorry to read such crude comments on this building, which is by far one of the best of LC career. It’s probably one of those building which doesn’t really get a good representation in pictures, nevertheless it’s magnificent when seen live. I’m very sad for the vandalism.

  • nicholas tesdorf

    Instead of spending money on the new visitors’ centre and nunnery, they could have refurbished this great church by Le Corbusier. Security measures are now required.

  • Joane

    O trabalho de Le Corbusier é belíssimo nessa obra, foge do padrão da época em que foi concebido, tanto construtivamente quanto formalmente,
    desafiando o materialidade ao extremo com seu concreto armado. Um dos pilares da boa arquitetura.

  • Poppy

    It’s such a shame when any historical monument or artifact is damaged, regardless of any single individual’s personal opinion of it. These are the pieces of our collective history and it disturbs me that any one person might decide to wrecklessly damage them. Having said that, I do think that it is a testament to the French and their overall respect for culture and history that this is the first time, in the building’s long history, of such behaviour. Maybe that’s because I’m Australian and we aren’t on average quite so developed in this way!

  • toon kandelaars architekt

    the Dutch poet Lucebert wrote ” Everything of value is defenceless. “