Development of the Ventilation Facility for the Tunnel under the Marne on Autoroute A6
What can be done?
The crossing under the Marne… the port factory… a colossal worksite… amazing machinery revealing the technological intelligence of the day… Nothing of that will remain visible… The driver won’t know he’s passing under the river… A tunnel is a tunnel…
The Marne is a place that arouses nostalgia. A century ago, it was all unspoiled nature. The countryside by the waterside: the banks of the Marne… guinguettes, the open-air cafés where people used to drink and dance… But what’s become of the banks? What’s become of the dance-cafés? A quick survey shows that everyone’s happy just to remember… and to forget today’s less poetic reality.
What can an artist do? What can an architect do? Can they make use of this three-fold potential:
- The presence of the crossing and its adjoining sites (the port factory in particular);
- The presence of the beautiful Marne, even if it’s no longer just a river flowing among trees;
- The fleeting beauty of a worksite, the poetry of the instant and of the ephemeral?
We need to be wary of hollow gestures, of the meaningless! This place has a memory. We need to shun the narcissistic estheticism of a work that forgets where it is and parades itself just for the pleasure of the artist and the client.
Can a symbol be enough? Showing a crossing is all very well… but what then? Showing the factory is all very well… it’s a factory… but so what? Meaning. We need meaning. If people come to this particular place, what can they see here that they can’t see elsewhere? What is its specific personality? How can we reveal it?
We’re on the super ring road of Paris, at the junction of one of the main motorways… in the world of the périphérique, the car, everyday life. A world of the undistinguished sign, of a modernity so lived-in it’s been erased from the scene, forgotten… Amnesia. We have a fabulous talent for amnesia but not for seeing… What can you see from your car, from the périph… from the motorway… from the bridge? Headlights… tail lights… Are we really aware of them? … Is this beautiful? Is it ugly?
We’re on the banks of the Marne… there are boats… there’s a bridge over the road and the railway, the motorway is nearby… And yet the Marne is still verdant… Can we enjoy the banks of the Marne within a contemporary esthetic?
This worksite world is incredibly beautiful… But no one sees the beauty… We think of Peter Brook, of Bob Wilson… We think of Wim Wenders… This place is dramatic, cinematic. This place is multifaceted.
We can’t bear the idea that it could be empty… that you have to open the portal of some (technological) moat to visit the port factory… What’s the point of that?!
How can we make this place come alive… How can people live here? With the factory? In the factory? On the factory? On the Marne? We’ve been asked for a gesture, a building… Can you live through a gesture, a work?
- To translate the world of the périphérique in all its poetry, a poetry bound up with nature but also with the asphalt, the factory and the water, with the light and the night.
- To use the Marne. The memories it conjures up. To make Parisians want to come here as a regular thing to drink and dance.
- To preserve something, however faint, of the poetry of this great worksite. To bring back time.
- To turn this special spot into a place full of life, bring out and develop its strong identity and let it benefit Nogent, the Marne… the whole region.
- To amaze so as to attract.