The Administrative Centre of the Ministry of Equipment and Transport (Namur)
ADMINISTRATION CENTRE OF THE MINISTRY OF EQUIPMENT AND TRANSPORT OF WALLONIA IN NAMUR
Built between 1997 and 1999 the administrative centre of the MET (Ministère de l'Equipement et des Transports de la Région Wallonne) in Namur is a group of eleven buildings arranged on either side of an interior footpath covered by an enormous glass casing. This construction by the architect Jean Barthélemy (office "A.u.r.a", together with Benoît Jonet and Michel Poulain) is situated between the Boulevard du Nord and the railway facilities of the Namur railway station. The Northern front is inspired by a classical architecture using the repetitive rhythmic light coming through semi-columns which are cut out in three proportional levels: a blue stone pedestal as the base from which two window levels arise separated by blue semi-columns. A glass attic constitutes the third level which finishes the façade on which the roof is placed on top.
A large circular glass casing is rising above the main entrance of the building receding from the line of the façade. Its convex form is in contrast to the concave shape of the building at this point. The dialectics of curve and counter-curve focuses the attention on the entry of the building. Two floors with large bay-windows are superposed over the ground floor which the commuters take to go to the station, and closed by an upper inclined glass roof. This connects the convex hall to the rear of the building by a glass "column" embedded between its two wings.
The importance of the realisation authorised the integration of two great oeuvres, one at the outside, the other at the inside. The first one concerns the concept of a grill or perforated panel serving as windbreak, seen from the main entrance; the second one concernes the design of the tapestry to be put in the meeting and the exposition rooms of the building. Put in charge of the organisation of the two competitions and the awards for the best projects The Commission of Arts detained the works of Léon Wuidar (grill) and Gabriel Belgeonne (tapestry).
The ? grill ? of Léon Wuidar
Facing the importance of the architecture of the administration centre of the MET, Léon Wuidar, an artist from Liège, has immediately understood that he has to be austere. He opted for the repetition of a regular square motive, cut out from the surface of two panels made of polished steel and placed above the main entance. The squares are put along vertical and horizontal lines and match with the colours which underline the windows. In this way the two panels are the synthesis of the geometric principles which prevail the construction of a building where the artist has refined the forms.
By the repetition of a simple form, Léon Wuidar, due to his personal bearing, has realised a harmonious and proportional structure, admitting of training the imagination towards previously unsuspected borders. The discrete motifs of the tulipe, engraved by laser, draw a second "grill" superposed on the first one what can be reflected upon when approaching it. So, the artist proposes to combine the two visual writings which allows the panels look not so impersonal. Due to a very clear and formal vocabulary, Léon Wuidar succeeded in expressing extremely strong ideas.
Inside the building the cutted squares permit a diffuse daylight coming in on different floors and let the world outside be visible, while the structure of the grill partly hides what is going on. From outside the squares seem like dark elements compared with the shady reflections mirroring on the panels because the oeuvre reacts nicely to the movements of light. It's a practical mirror due to the reflecting light and at the same time it's a symbolic one due to the offered possibility of passing from one world to the other: the real one and the imaginary one, which could be considered as "exterior" or "interior" to a human being.
The "bridge" by Gabriel Belgeonne
An impressive tapistry of several square metres (1m x 2.7m) enhances the atmosphere of the meeting room of the Manager's Office and the exposition room of the administration centre of the MET. At each end of it two dark forms are symbolising two cities, two distant places which rejoin the signs of different colours and materials. The first look on the exercices of art will let recognise the range and the art line of Gabriel Belgeonne. The next ones will appreciate the balanced nuances of the colours without any overburdening according to what a tapestry allows.
The artist has indeed submitted his pictural project completely to the limited possibilities of his transposition in tapistry. Far from being a painter, Belgeonne has done a project which contained a sufficient ouverture to let tapestry weavers all the liberties of necessary interpretation to do a good project. They could take advantage of all tactile and visual potentialities (variety of points, of material etc) of tapistry art like it is being practised in Tournai for centuries.
This arc rising above the emptiness in order to rejoin its counterpart suggests the idea of a bridge; an infrastructure which concerns all the ways of deplacement: the roads, the rivers and the air. Besides the function of communication the bridge symbolises also the symbolic opening towards other things, towards discoveries and encounters. Here, the function of the MET is perfectly symbolised in a piece of work where the practice of the artist is merging with the materialisation of the oeuvre.