It’s that time of year again where fifty first students pile on a coach and spend six days photographing, drawing and discussing all things architectural. Leaving Brighton at 2am we drove through the night to get a ferry to Calais.
First stop we were first in the queue to see the amazing Louvre Lens this year in brilliant sunshine, compared to the last time we visited the surrounding vegetation was much grown and the town of old mining town of Lens seemed far less bleak than even just a year ago. We took in the workshops in basement and the permanent exhibition marveling at how beautiful the subtle play of light on the walls is and how the exhibits are reflected back at you in display cases. We all agreed the main exhibition hall that houses the permanent collection works well whereas the temporary exhibition spaces were somewhat disappointing.
We then made our way to Lille to visit Villa Cavrois built 1929 -32 by Robert Mallett Stevens for wealthy businessman Paul Cavrois who demanded a large modern house, with modernist, geometric spirit. The house was conceived as a total work of art, with every part of architecture, decoration and furniture considered and immense care given by architect to the quality of materials and equipment.
Our visit to Villa Cavrois was two fold as it provided an opportunity to see the care with which a building can be restored as it fell into major disrepair and was occupied by German troups between 1940 and 1944. Only to be abandoned and virtually destroyed by looters despite being a historical monument. It was in such serious danger the state bought the property in 2001 and painstaking restoration using original materials began in 2003 to return it to its original historic condition thanks to old photos and archaeological traces. Since 2012 the villa has become part of worldwide conservation programme for emblematic houses of the 20th century “iconic houses”
We then made our way to an old psychiatric hospital and spent time exploring the Caritas project which the architects describe as a new future for an old history. Thinking about care in a psychiatric institute. Ateliers, rooms and gardens can be found in the existing abandoned villa on the site which sits beside a working hospital and public park. The Architects De Vylder Vinck Taillieu are a practice tutor Tony Roberts much admires and as the photos show students enjoyed the interplay between inside and outside space and finding external features being on the inside.
Our evening spent exploring an illuminated Antwerp and then relaxing under the shadow of the stunning Cathedral in a bar selling 72 different beers.