When we got back to France we needed to take some rest after this trip. We got easily into a student routine. In February, a friend of us introduced us to a project that was about to begin. Camille and Léo, two young guys full of energy, had just bought a castle in ruins in a small village in the French region « Gers ». Their project was to renovate it and transform it to be a place for cultural and economic exchange by hosting artists and providing workshops for local craftsmen. We went to check out this place and met Camille and Léo. The castle is located in Belmont, a small village one hour and half away from Toulouse.
The region is quite hilly, and the landscape is made of big fields of wineyard, sunflower and hay. The castle was built at the top of one of these hills that provides a nice panoramic view. On the west side of the land, the slope goes down until a small creek at the bottom of the valley. This high position of the castle makes it vulnerable to the strong winds coming from the west.
The original estate was about 50ha. Camille’s parents bought 45ha of fields to create their equestrian center « cheval magique » (https://www.facebook.com/ChevalMagique/, http://www.cheval-magique.com/). During five years Camille came to « Cheval Magique » and looked at this castle in ruin. One day he got the idea to buy it. He gathered a few friends to talk about his idea, his project and consider this opportunity. Léo, a long time friend, was the only one willing to take part of this adventure. One year later they bought the castle and the five hectares left of the original estate. After a bit of research, they found out that the castle belonged to a rich man of the region and it was built in the 17th century. During the Second World War, it was abandoned. It has been plundered for almost 70 years. Several persons bought the castle years after years with different ideas and projects. One of them renovated the roof, which kept the castle in a better state. On the 5ha’s land there are the main building, the castle and a few other ones. The castle is composed of three floors of 500m2 each. The main facade is facing the Pyrenees, a mountain chain between France and Spain. The rest of the ancient park is in front of the south Bordeaux style facade with its 27 windows.
At the back of the castle there are the other buildings. A big house on the east side. It is about 150m2 and has a pretty big porch facing west to the court that is made by the different building. On the west side the building has a U shape which create this court. This building is about 1500m2. Now only the walls are standing. The rest of the domain is made of small groves, hay field and a fruit and vegetable garden. Most of the buildings are in a bad shape now. The walls are quite thick, between 50 and 80 cm wide. On different part, we saw floor clay tiles. One concave room is made only of stone arches. The roofs were made of traditional wood. Now there is not a lot left. Most of the tiles and the structure are rotting on the floor.
The floors in the castle are all made of wooden beams. The roof was renovated ten years ago, so it is in a quite good shape, except a small part on the North-West part of the building because a small part of the wall of one tower collapsed. The roof of the castle amazed us. Traditional timber roof truss measuring more than 15m long.
In order to live comfortably on the site during the construction, Léo brought a bus to live in and Camille a caravan. They have been living on the site since December 2016. Camille having a circus background he wants to create a space where circus, dancing or theatre company can come to practice and live in the castle. But the idea is also to propose some spaces for craftsmen to come and work and create an economic activity on the site, and promote the traditional knowledge. A couple of other projects are growing around the castle. Léo, the musician of the team, want to create a studio to practice and record music. The other empty spaces will welcome projects in the future. They are open to ideas for future project. All those ideas made them to rename the castle “Le château neuf des peuples”. Understand “the new castle for the people”. They also created an association to promote their action with the same name. They organize workshop every month since February 2017 in order to renovated the site. Therefore, they were able to clean up the site, cut the vegetation that had invaded the buildings, and collect the stones and wood that had fallen along the ages. They also renovated the house that was on the site and which was finished in July.
Painting realised by Lowick MNR (https://www.facebook.com/LOWICK-MNR-1434678540078783/)
The analysis of this site was different from the other houses encountered during the trip, because this project is still in construction, and it has just been invested for less than a year. However, this project is important for ArchiTakeTour because it is now a place where we can project our ideas. Ideas that where then used for our Final Master Project of architecture.This entry was posted in News