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Former Convent of the Celestines (Namur)

Ministerial cabinet


The islet of the Celestines

Delimitated by the rue de l'Etoile, the rue du Lombard, the rue du Premier-Lanciers and the rue Pépin, the Celestine quarter, in Namur, owes its name to the remarkable Convent which was established there between 1635 and 1658. Today only the central part remains, typical of the traditional Mosan (= Romanesque style in the basin of the river Meuse) architecture, where bricks and cordons of freestone alternate. Its recent renovation, entrusted to the architectural atelier from Namur L' Arbre d'Or, has destined it for housing a ministerial cabinet.

This project, jointly led by the City of Namur and the Walloon Region, lies within a vast programme of revitalising town planning which aims at linking up the upper and lower parts of the Mosan city, up to the banks of the river, by means of a pedestrian route lined by small squares and green areas. The heart of this new historical complex is the new Celestine square, which stretches out facing the main facade of the former convent. The prevailing principle of the urban conception of the square is to rebuild a closed courtyard recalling the former cloister which has disappeared.

Next to the future square, an esplanade opens out, joining the rue du Lombard and partially intersecting with the former course of a water route, the Houyoux, which meandered through the quarter and affected the economic activity which was developed there. It is at this spot that the architects have proposed to integrate a fountain-sculpture. After study and agreement, the Commission of arts of the Walloon Region, in charge of the contest, has opted for the project by Florence Fréson, entitled Jardin de pierres(Garden of stones).




The Celestines

   © Transit photo





Le ?Jardin de pierres? de Florence Fréson (Garden of stones)

Upon leaving the square of the Celestines, in the direction of the rue du Lombard, the walker is attracted by the gentle noise of a trickle of water which flows freely. The attention aroused, one cannot miss the fountain, pouring out over a bed of cut stones, enclosed between old walls overgrown with sweet-smelling honeysuckles. Florence Fréson's fountain work thus reveals itself slowly, without infringing on the architectural preponderance of the convent.

Briefly described, the Jardin de pierres of Florence Fréson is shaped like a reversed "L". Made up of  blocks of petit granite from the Condroz plateau, extracted from the quarries of Sprimont, it perfectly fits in between the listed walls of old buildings. Its surface area consists of an alignment of thirty-two square stones, all with one metre fifty-five sides. They are laid in eight lines of four. Next to the side of the rue de l'Etoile, three springs bubble up, soon doubled by two others on the next line. The water spreads, as naturally as discreetly, over the stone slabs, in unpredictable ways, getting round the contours of the stones, tearing up on their unevennesses which were left protruding, before flowing into an evacuating channel made up of fifteen stones of fifty centimetres which invite the onlooker to sit down.

The flood is sometimes calm, sometimes speeded up. With a discretion whose corollary is of a rare emotional intensity, Florence Fréson has come up with the resurgence of the Houyoux, the former stream which will be covered from now on, and whose flow gave rhythm to life in the quarter over the course of previous centuries. A way of writing the present and connecting it to the sources of the past. For the children living in the quarter, the Houyoux exists again !




© Transit photo


© Transit photo




© Transit photo


© Transit photo





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