Glass nuggets in the forest
Glass industry site of Meisenthal
Close to Alsace, Meisenthal is located in the Regional Natural Park of North Vosges. Coming from Metz, one crosses the former coal mines district of Saint-Arvold and their majestuous mine lift structures, then reaches this village of 600 inhabitants straight into the forest.
The scattered building of this former industrial site appear: a large hall covered with a light steel structure, a tall brick chimney – all specific features from a nineteenth century factory – a large mansion, and craft smaller buildings skeletton, from which solely the structure remain.
Several activities share this place: a small museum dedicated to glass craftmanship, a 3200 sqm hall for events (concerts and exhibitions) and an international glass Art Centre (called « CIAV »), designed with a great hability in the old factory still in use, what allows the visitors to see from above artist and glass blowers in action.
The site has been working for circa ten years, despite of reduced incomes and thanks to the braveness of some local pioneers, xho appear here as « last of mohicans ». Struggling against the area’s economical collapse, working to maintain the know-hows alive, they’ve invented and brought a new life to the glass art site, promoting the oldest’s workers glass blowing knowledge to a younger generation. In order to broadcast this creative activity, the CIAV produces Christmas decorations designed each year by a different artist – who is hosted as resident on the site itself. Here is a lively local project, with an exceptionnal regional impact, and an ambitious artictic activity.
Buildings are not in such a bad state, but suffer from some fatigue. Some of the simple construction principles are remarkable, as i dicovered, for instance, a wooden roof structure made of nailed board crossed layers – a highly efficient relationship between material and spatiality.
The site deserved obviously a better renovation, a more coherent reception and optimization of facilities. As State Architect Counselor, we were asked to help for financial demand and the brief for the architectural competition.
The brief insisted on the necessity of keeping the lively and scarecely conventional process inherited from pioneer’s cultural activity, while improving functional conditions. This difficulty went through architecture and landscape design.
After several juries and meetings, all enthousiastically supported by the originality and commitment of local people, SO-IL/Freaks office was chosen as winning team, now in charge of the on going project.
This remakable witness should be an sample of how public action could support local activity and local persons strong involvement. Culture here upgrades a territory that wished to recover the strength given by its creative craftmanship and industry, enhanced by a renewed vision and interpretation of the county’s know-hows.
This exigence about innovation and quality doesn’t have any dedicated places: it helps all kind of sites.