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Architecture Principe (Claude Parent, Paul Virilio)

©Philippe Magnon

  • Eglise Sainte-Bernadette-du-Banlay, Nevers, 1963
  • Drawing
  • Encre sur calque
  • 26.8 x 21.5 cm
  • 993 01 06

Eglise Sainte-Bernadette-du-Banlay, Nevers, 1963-1966

Projet réalisé

Designed between 1963 and 1966, the Church of Sainte-Bernadette du Banlay in Nevers is the materialization of the crossing over of two lines of research: Paul Virilio’s “archeological” work on the bunkers of the Atlantic Wall (Bunker Archeology, 1958-1975) and Claude Parent’s research and critique of the modern plan exploring the concept of fracture and tipping over. The church of Banlay powerfully expresses this fracture in two heavy masses cantilevered over a central pillar that constitutes the junction point. For Parent, it is a “fault line.” This fracture, the determining element in the development of the project, enabled the designers to rethink, with the same tension, the unity and the discontinuity of the space. Dedicated to Bernadette Soubirous, the building also seeks to be the architectural transcription of the grotto where the saint witnessed her first apparitions. A “cryptic space,” a genuine monolithic and totally hermetic carapace, Sainte-Bernadette shocked the minds of a period still deeply affected by World War II and terrorized by the cold war and the constant nuclear threat. In his book Bunker Archeology, Virilio evoked these “concrete alters built facing the void of the ocean,” the funerary architecture of Egyptian mastabas and Etruscan tombs. He poeticized their immobile wait, remarking the anthropomorphic character of these capsized silhouettes. Sainte-Bernadette is a sacred space in which military language is introduced in the paradox: the bunker as a figure of oppression and of refuge, the grotto as the incarnation of humanity’s origins but also of the tomb, and the Church as a symbol of introspection and of ascension towards the light.

Inventory / Slideshow [238]