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The Mills at the River Meuse (Beez)

THE MILLS AT THE RIVER MEUSE IN BEEZ (NAMUR)
Centre of local Archives, Museum of Wallonia, Museum of the Meuse and the cabinet of the Minister

 

Built in 1900, the mills at the Meuse in Beez, near Namur, are one of the jewels of the industrial patrimony of Wallonia. Therefore, its redevelopment (decided in 1994) should harmoniously match with the new annex (the depot of the Walloon administrative archives, the Museum of Wallonia and the Museum of the Meuse), respecting this neo-medieval architecture characteristical for the end of the 19th century. After profound studies and consultations with the Walloon General Management of territorial Equipment, Lodging and Patrimony, the architecture office l'Arbre d'Or in Namur, proposed by the architect Maurice Culot, opted for restoring the outer façade and the equipment of the internal structure in order to receive the tons of theRégion's archives of private as well as public origin.

The façades of red bricks have been cleaned and treated by hydro-rubber in order to respect the orginal appearence of the building. Besides, this treatment emphasizes the excellent work of the bricklayers of that time and underlines the decorative motifs formed by the orientation of the devices. In fact, the great austerity of the building is punctually compensated by the subtility of the brick arrangement. Supplementary additions which deform the building are abolished. The old window frames have been renovated and those which have been destroyed or broken too much, have been rebuilt in identical way. Their conception contributes to the neomedieval aesthetic which predominates this architectural ensemble.

The interior equipment has been commissioned to the French designer Andrée Putman. She has chosen the flour theme guiding her restoration work. A milky white colour show the ancient industrial activity which reminds also the glass cupboards of the Museum of Wallonia and the Museum of the Meuse, even though being installed in the mills.

Invited in order to give its opinion regarding the project of integrating the artworks into the new site, the Walloon Commission of Arts endorsed the propositions of Pierre Culot (implantation of the sculpture "fruit du mur" (fruit of the wall) and exterior fittings), of Michel Scheer (interior sculpture "Signe" (the Sign)) and of Yann Kersalé (lightshow "Courant d'âges" (Flow of Ages)).

 

The Mills at the River Meuse in Beez (Namur)
   © Transit photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pierre Culot : ? Fruit du Mur ? (fruit of the wall)
 

In charge of the outside renovation of the mills, the sculptor Pierre Culot integrated a great oeuvre made of blue stone from Soignies, called "Fruit du mur". Placed between the two main buildings, it permits a harmonious visual transition between the banks of the river and the rocky partition-walls at the back of the mills. Seen from the Meuse, the sculpture focus the sight and widens the space around it like a geometric scheme inspired by the art of French gardens. It's the intersection point between two imaginable lines, one parallel to the river, the other perpenticular to it.

Built between the two building of the Meuse mills, ended by a passage on top, "Fruit de mur" closes a small space. The closed aspect of this yard, combined with the presence of water, can't help evoking the impression of a hortus conclusus (closed garden), the form of gardens used in Medieval Ages, which the neomedieval look of the whole is referenced to. The relaxing garden hortus conclusus is a place of wealth and peace, where the mind, free from the problems of the day, can have a free imagination which generously stimulates a serene and orderly environment which the sculptural ensemble of stone is the core of.

The surface of the stone blocks is scratched with about ten very bright scars much like they were traces of extraction and of the artist's work. Also, the whole story of the mills is condensated on the slashed surface. All the joy, the pain, the suffering of those who lived there seem to be engraved by unknown hands coming to emotion again, today. These monumental stones constitute the "memory" of the mills. This metaphoric function of the oeuvre is reinforced by the presence of the river, of which the flowing symbolises the merciless flow of time.

 

 

 


© Transit photo

 


© Transit photo


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© Transit photo

 

 

 

 

Yann Kersalé : ? Courant d'âges ? (Flow of Ages)
 

For the illumination Yann Kersalé proposed a lumineous equipment at different levels. The lowest level, the one of the river Meuse, does not have a direct light but is perpetually illuminated by the waters reflecting the light of the site.The highest level, the circulation zone covered with pavement, is sprinkled with low boundary marks which give a sharp white light. Between the railway tracks and the parking, 37 high boundary stones rise in a form of an octogonal cone dispersing a white light around the wings. The artist imagined them surrounding the railway tracks like an illuminating escort. The more one is going back from the buildings, the more the bays become bigger, suggesting a progress in the discovery.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 


© Transit photo

 


© Transit photo

 

 

 


© Transit photo

 


© Transit photo

 

The essence of the illumination, however, lies in the light from 800 metres of fluorescent tubes, of main constructions. Put on a piedestal, these tubes function as a halo of violine light which seems to caress the façades in a sensual way. The massive structure of the mills seem to soften, the illuminated ends become dominant, the architectural details are emphasized to the disadvantage of the volumetry of the ensemble. It is far from the time when the light of the night wanted to rival with the day light and effaced the architectural ensemble under a sweeping light. Kersalé is working with shades, with purification, with easiness. The light, once a way to focus the attention to the volume, has become an intangible pearl which fitts the building without disguising but magnifying the harmony.

 

 

 

 

Michel Scheer, ? Signe ? (the Sign)
 

In the welcome hall of the mills, near the elevators and corridors, an oeuvre of Michel Scheer raises discretely. Discretely, as it integrates itself into the architecture of the place much like disappearing. A column of stainless steel, more than two metres high and headed with three metal balls of different diameters situated on three orbits, it is in the back among small columns and the heating pipes which divide the hall: "colonne parmi les colonnes (a column among columns)", as the artist maliciously wrote. The cylindric form of the oeuvre corresponds with the dominant ring of small columns and pipes, all opposite to the quadrangular configuration of the piece.

But, seen from the passing visitor's view, the three metal balls turn around the top. Rin­gings and movings also reveal the presence of the oeuvre. The perfection of the line, its cold purity, the clearness of the partition walls cannot help evoking certain minimalistic oeuvres. Its mimetic reflection of the properties of the environment reveals all the misapprehension of a spectactor being in a hurry and accentuates also the pleasure of being "trapped". A magnetical field keeps the balls moving on the column. Their circular movement reminds also of what has moved the mills continuously and the ringings can be understood as sonoric hint to the intense activity which has been deployed.

Regarding the artistic and technologic quality of the oeuvre, Michel Scheer adds an original symbolic content; the keys to that he delivers in a text (link to the French text).

 


© Transit photo

 


© Transit photo

 

 

 


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© Transit photo

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