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Architecture: Playing with the raw block

In the sunlight of the Dordogne-Region, the limestone glows like gold.(April 2009) Quarry rough blocks are particularly fascinating: the stone is rough and primitive, hardly tamed, heavy and hard. This is not only true of the large pieces cut directly out of the mountainside, but also for the smaller pieces. How to design using smaller pieces was demonstrated by the French Architect Bernard Chinours when building a coliseum in the Dordogne: the surrounding walls were constructed using 160 cm x 50 cm x 40 cm blocks leaving the raw side purposely facing outward.

The trick is that Chinours does not merely stack the blocks one on top of the other. Each block is equipped with metal feet leaving a horizontal line void between the raw surfaces of the blocks extending over the length of the building. To ensure that the lines are absolutely straight, the surfaces were hewn to shape.

The line has a two-fold design-effect. First its air of civilization contrasts sharply with the roughness of the blocks. And second, by incorporating lighting elements  in the 10 cm spaces between the blocks, special effects are created which illuminate the wall at night. The bright yellow limestone Pierre des Eyzies stemming from the sun-drenched Dordogne takes on an entirely different character at night. The coliseum is situated in the town of Coulounieix Chamiers in south-eastern France, in French: Dojo départemental de Dordogne.

Bernard Chinours E-Mail

Fotos: bernard dupuy photographe