August 06 2014

Architecture of Le Corbusier: World Heritage Sites in Firminy & Loire, France

L'unité d'Habitation building by Le Corbusier in Firminy, France

After two failed attempts to make the work of the famed architect Le Corbusier recognized as UNESCO World Heritage sites in 2009 and 2011, interested French cities, as well as communities from six other countries, are taking up the struggle again. Working in accordance with a mandatory timeline, they submitted their request to the Committee of French World Heritage Sites, within the “cultural possessions” category. This committee of experts, under the authority of ministers belong to both the Ministries of Culture and Ecology, favorably received the application.

The candidacy for the Le Corbusier buildings must be presented to the Committee of French Sites before being definitively submitted to UNESCO by the end of the year. UNESCO will then appoint experts from the NGO ICOMOS to the proposed sites. The Fondation Le Corbusier organization is acting as a coordinator between the different sites.

Philippe Lalliot, France’s permanent representative to UNESCO, called together the ambassadors of the countries involved in the project in the beginning of July. At the same time, the Association of Le Corbusier Sites, presided over by the Mayor of Firminy, Marc Petit, held its general assembly in Paris in order to replace the members of its committee who are no longer mayors. One of the changes worth noting in the candidacy dossier is that the number of countries implicated has increased. It has risen from six to seven with the entry of India for the capitol complex of Chandigarh (the city’s administrative and political neighborhood, and government center of the state of Punjab), which was designed by Le Corbusier.

Le Corbusier's Saint-Pierre Church in Firminy, France

For Firminy, Only the Maison de la Culture Remains

Among the other changes imposed, in light of the past two failures, the number of sites proposed for classification is being reduced. Until now, there were nineteen. This reduction especially affects Switzerland, who proposed the Maison-Blanche in la Chaux-de-Fonds, the Le Lac Villa in Orseaux, and the Clarté building in Geneva. In France, among the ten French cities concerned (Paris, Boulogne-Billancourt, Poissy, Pessac, Saint-Dié-des-Vosges, Ronchamp, Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, Marseille, Eveux, Firminy), it is the city of Firminy in the Loire region who is paying the price for this change. And so, the hopes for the Civic Center have disappeared, only leaving the Maison de la Culture of Firminy-Vert.

Nearly Ten Million Euro for the Stadium and the Maison de la Culture

These two large construction sites in the administrative center of Firminy-Vert are the latest in a series of projects, preceded by the restoration of the swimming pool and the completion of work on Le Corbusier’s Saint-Pierre Church.

The administrative committee of the National Center for the Development of Sport met this July to vote for a 500,000 subvention for the restoration of the Le Corbusier designed stadium in Firminy, costing 5.1 million euros. This is a welcome financial contribution for Firminy-Vert, a neighborhood which is hardly a priority for the city’s policies. The work, begun in December, will last until at least 2017. The first step encompasses the foundations, masonry, and waterproofing. This athletic facility, which is part of the civic center of Firminy Vert, will remain open to students and to clubs during the course of construction work. The process has the responsibility of respecting the existing historic monument. Therefore, the “cap” that covers the central part of the bleachers, which was not extended over the totality of the surface for financial reasons during the building’s construction, will not be enlarged.

The Stadium designed by Le Corbusier in Firminy-Vert, France

The CNDS’ grant is aimed towards resuming work on the stadium’s running track. Aside from this state grant, funding is expected from the Ministry of Culture, the Department of la Loire, the Region of Rhône-Alpes, and the city of Firminy. Eventually, support from the urban area of Saint-Étienne is also expected for the creation of a handicap-accessible path linking the stadium to the Saint-Pierre Church and the Maison de la Culture. The renovation works on the Maison de la Culture, initiated in January 2009, were completed last April. They also were carried out without interrupting the site’s services.

The first phase, dedicated to the refurbishment of the roof and covering has enjoyed a grant of nearly 500,000 euros as part of the government’s plan to recommence the redevelopment work. The next step will focus on the façades, the surroundings, and the interior of the building (tiling, woodwork, locksmithing, but also furniture, especially seats) for a total cost of more than 4,000,000 euros.

Do you agree that the work of Le Corbusier deserves recognition by UNESCO?

Original article, originally published in French, here.

Credits: Images and data linked to sources.

Marcus Khoury

Marcus Khoury is a recent graduate of the University of California Los Angeles, where he obtained a B.A. in French & Francophone Studies. Aside from his native Michigan, Marcus has lived in several states, in addition to France and Chile. Owing to his experiences with a variety of cultures, languages, and environments, he has always been keenly interested in how the exchange of ideas between different cities, regions, and countries helps to shape both physical and cultural landscapes. His linguistic background, in addition to his interest in the diversity of international urban environments and experiences, has led Marcus to fill the position of French Language Translator at The Grid, where he will be translating and presenting French language material involving environmental design.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 6th, 2014 at 9:03 am and is filed under Architecture, Government/Politics, History/Preservation, Landscape Architecture, Marcus Khoury, Urban Development/Real Estate. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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