So I am in Brussels in the most beautiful apartment I have been in (and that is saying a lot!) it’s a shame that it is only for one night! I promise I will update with everything I’ve been up to soon!
The final part of our trip up north was a short stop at Les Andelys. None of us had any clue of what this was, and from our weekend assumed it was another beautiful Gothic cathedral. So we drive into town and its situated in a beautiful valley, absolutely stunning, but as far as french towns go, not really worth driving the extra hour out of the way for. We see the ever prevalent cathedral and assume that it is our final destination, but then the bus turns up this tiny gravel road that has a massive incline to boot. We keep winding up this hill in and out of what quite frankly looks like Indiana (except the cows look different, and I don’t know why) until we reach this drastic downhill turn through a wall of trees and what appears on the other side is this.
Essentially we had climbed to the top of the hill to find ourselves at a medieval castle ruins. This is real life and I do not believe it myself. The Chateau (yes this fortress) was fought over for centuries between French and British rule. Because of its northern location, and more locally its ability to see for miles of the Seine because of a bend in the river, this is a perfect location for this kind of structure. Unfortunately, as I fear I will see with many sites. One of the kings dismantled the castle to ensure that the other would not try to take it (it sounds like kindergarten all over again). What remains is quite interesting but I would definitely say its surroundings are what make this place magical.
Tonight, as I was walking home from a friend’s apartment I was consumed with to dos, future wants, and fears of minor failures. As I was doing this, I was so caught up in future self that I was literally blind to where I was. Mid stride, it suddenly struck me that I was alone in front of the Chateau de Versailles. Elegantly sprawled, and frankly just so massive it is a site to behold, even after seeing it every day since I have been here. The serenity from this brief realization really makes me thankful for every moment I have had thus far. Not just in Versailles, yes it is beautiful here, but with the people I love the most. I find that my happiest memories are those few seconds of silence and respect for the world. May you have the same experience no matter where you are; every second of life matters, and that is beautiful.
This weekend we stayed in Rouen which is in Northern France. It is known for having one of the best preserved medieval towns in Europe. What I found extraordinarily beautiful were the churches. Huge shocker, old town beautiful church, in France they are a dime a dozen. However I found these two churches particularly interesting. While they contrast greatly, both strive for height and light. consciously we know that these motifs are present throughout all of architecture history, but seeing two examples 500 years apart, it demonstrates the endless ways we as architects can express through space. Another post might be coming comparing these two in more detail, but for now, just marvel at how beauty can take such different forms for similar purposes.
Benedictine Church of St Ouen
Church of Joan of Arc
This weekend our class went up north to the Normandy region. The area is absolutely breathtaking. One of our main destinations was the ruins of Jumieges, a benedictine abbey that was sold and turned into an quarry during the french revolution. Because of this the remains are in a half withered state of decay, however this makes it all the more beautiful. If it had been preserved there is no chance I would have learned of it let alone loved it as much as I do. The present state is not its intended purpose or form, yet the intervention of what can be seen as a disaster has actually brought more spirit into the space. For me having the earth and sky surrounding the natural withering stone is much more spiritual than any mosaic or truss system that was originally there. It is both haunting and peaceful, missing and complete, and perfect in every way.
That being said, our purpose for seeing these ruins was for our first studio project. It seems very Ironic, yet it is a rather ingenious idea. As architects we will be faced with clients who want to cover or destroy magnificent structures so it can be re purposed and seen as brand new. It is our job however to not only meet the needs of the client, but to see the problems that they never knew existed and fix those also. Our project is to create a roof system over the main nave so that it can be used as a concert hall. While the prompt is rather challenging, it is also extremely compelling since we all adore and respect the state it is in today. Because of this there is definitely a sense of responsibility to perform for this project, regardless of the reality of it all. Since this is just the start of the project, I will update you when we finish in two weeks. Until then you get to soak up the mystical qualities that are present at Jumieges.
One of the main advantages of having your school on the palace of Versailles grounds is that you are a quick walk away and you can get in for free. This means never having to see it with a crowd. I have been here a couple of years ago, but the mass of space and gold and art is overwhelming. Not that I completely love all of the gilding and luxurious colors, but there is something to be noted that this overt sense of opulence in a sense was a main factor in the french revolution. What is especially interesting is that it is now a main tourist attraction in France; but for the millions of viewers who gape in the hall of mirrors, is there a thought to the strife that this magnificent show of craftsmanship has caused? Or should we just appreciate the arts that are presented and pretend we are all Marie Antoinette?