The call for local materials in road construction usually leads to paving with the usual patterns and shades of gray on gray. That is a good thing. However, the tourist town of Vercorin in the municipality of Chalais above the Swiss Rhone Valley proves that you can make much more out of it if you also add new materials and new design ideas: the landscape architects there have brought together gray paving stones, colorful stone slabs and black asphalt in a beautiful way.
To put it in a nutshell: they have rolled out the geology of the region in its most beautiful form in the center of the village.
Arnaud Michelet and Romain Legros from En-Dehors landscape architects developed the concept: the central street in the village center remained asphalted and straight, but its course was visually forced into a winding line in front of the residential buildings with small stone peninsulas.
Mind you: the effect is purely visual, and there is no difference in level between the asphalt and the stone surfaces.
But it has nevertheless slowed down through traffic. At least this has been the initial experience since completion in 2021.
Because: the little islands in front of some houses are visually unmissable. The edges are made of large stone slabs that not only create irregular shapes, but also add striking colors to the overall picture.
The color probably contributes significantly to the effect of traffic calming and no doubt also to the beautification: a municipality has afforded itself decorative stones for its alleys, one would like to exclaim.
How great it will look when it rains!
The stones are nothing more than ordinary types (clay slate and phyllite or limestone and slate) from the nearby quarries (Saxon/Sapinhaut and Saint-Léonard).
However, they were selected individually and cut by hand.
“We have great respect for the workers in the quarries and in stone processing and have learned a great deal from them,“ says Romain Legros in an article in Hochparterre magazine, paying tribute to the expertise of the local stone workers. This refers to the colored veins, which run very uncontrolled in these types of stone and which only experts in the material can extract in large pieces from the rock.
The road builders also contributed their expertise: there is a 60 cm foundation layer under the stone blocks to prevent subsidence. The stones are 25 cm thick and were anchored with a 10 cm thick laying mortar reinforced with wire mats.
The surfaces of the large stone slabs were left as they were when they were split in the quarry.
However, they were selected so that they would not obstruct the path of pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists. Almost two hundred individual chunks between 80 and 180 cm long were laid.
After completion, the stone chunks also encourage passers-by to play a puzzle game: some of them extend lines from the house facades onto the street, others are like reflections of individual chunks in a house wall.
After the first construction phase, which cost around one million Swiss francs, the second construction phase will take place on adjacent streets and a square by 2027. The same amount has been budgeted for it.
Photos: En-Dehors / Baptiste Coulon
(22.01.2023, USA: 01.22.2023)