Private Arts Centre and Residence
This project involves a partial demolition-rebuild and extension of a historic ballroom and residence in the Romanesque village of Blanot in Burgundy, France.
General Description and History
The ballroom was built in 1906 and served the village as its primary festive space for Saturday night dances, weddings and official ceremonies. It has original wall decorations in a pseudo-Art Nouveau style, made by local artist Claude Robert in 1910.
The ballroom is situated on the first floor; its ground floor was initially used as a coal store, resulting in a catastrophic fire in 1929 which destroyed the floor and roof above. The building was rebuilt in 1930 and the decorations restored by Claude Robert’s son Antoine (dated 1932), the wooden structure being replaced with a steel and concrete floor sheltering a garage for lorries. An annexe agricultural building was partially transformed ad subsequently became (in the 1970s) a small residential space.
Oral history testifies to the ballroom’s importance in local society, especially in the interwar years when the local population had increased significantly in response to high-employment wine making activities. At the end of the Second World War the local Résistance cell (which had been very active, killing several German troops posted here in the upper reaches of the Zone Libre) was denounced by a villager. Fifteen local men -including Francois Jusseau, the owner of the ballroom- were seized at dinner in the neighbouring Hotel Jusseau by the Nazis and taken in lorries sequestered from the ballroom garage to nearby Lyon. None returned; several were shot immediately, the others died in the concentration camps.
During the postwar years the village population declined, and the level of activity reduced owing to the loss of the principal menfolk. The ballroom continued sporadic use and slowly fell into disuse as its owners (children of Jusseau) grew older. Acquired in 2011 by the current owners, a lengthy planning and preparatory process concluded with its reopening in June 2018 for a large concert-party, followed later by a family wedding. The space is now beginning a new life as a hyrbrid residential – meeting – festive – work space dedicated to architecture, the visual arts, music, dance and performance.
The Transformation of the Living Spaces
The overall building has been restored as a functional whole comprising living, work and entertainment/performance spaces, whilst allowing a high degree of autonomy for these respective activities. A low-quality 1970s addition was demolished, restoring a certain coherency to the courtyard façade of the large ballroom. This allowed a lower courtyard to be enclosed with a translucent roof and an oak-framed double-glazed façade with 3 metre high doors. The resulting indoor-outdoor kitchen-dining space of 54 square metres features a built-in wood-burning oven and 5 metre-long stainless steel kitchen unit. It gives onto a 21 square metre gravel courtyard space with a mature fig tree in the centre. A former pigsty has been repurposed as a pantry-kitchen with the original stone wall left intact and repointed.
This space gives on directly to a new entrance space of 12 square metres, where a glass and oak façade has been installed behind an existing sliding wooden door of 3.2 x 2.3 metres. A new interior sliding oak wall of similar dimensions allows the residential part of the complex to be separated from the ballroom, which thereby has a private staircase access and dedicated toilet.
A new 24 square metre lounge (formerly the all-in-one kitchen/dining/sitting room) has been made inside the original house, and gives onto the fig tree courtyard with a 2 x 2 metre pocket sliding oak and glass door.
The three retained bedrooms on the first floor (41 square metres in total) have been renovated with new oak-framed double-glazed windows and ceiling-mounted 600w infrared panel radiators by Heat4all. The demolition of a fourth original bedroom has allowed the creation of a second window in one retained room.
The tiny bathroom (3.4 square metres, formerly with mouldy wallpaper around the tub) has been refitted as a monolithic volume with floor, walls, sink, ledge and ceiling all in local Charmot stone with a linear floor drain shower (plumbing fixtures by CEA). Lighting is experimental OLED units by Philips.
The ground floor living spaces are finished in local Massangis Clair Nuancé stone (floors and one wall), with underfloor electric heating by Warmup. Walls and built-in cabinetry in the lounge, corridor and entrance are dressed with Ducerf solid oak panels (harvested and produced locally). In the kitchen-dining the eastern wall is clad in untreated Siberian larch battens (as is this entire façade of the house, with 15 cm woodwool insulation behind); the west wall (formerly an outdoor retaining wall) is dressed largely in drystone gleaned from a collapsed barn 50 metres from the property, and supplied gratis by a neighbour (further stone came from a vineyard in Cruzille in the next valley). The same material continues outside in the lower courtyard and into a new wall defining the upper terrace.
The contractors from the project are from the village (stone and carpentry) and nearby towns (wood structure and cladding, demolition, drainage and concrete).
Lighting fixtures are -for the lounge- Charlotte Perriand’s applique à volet pivotant, and -in the kitchen- Foscarini aplomb suspended lights, all dimmable.
A fuel boiler system has been replaced with all-electric heating, the intention being to add photovoltaic panels on the south-facing ballroom roof, making the complex energy-independent.
Cellar, Studio and Ballroom
A 32 square metre semi-undergound cellar has a 4 metre-high bespoke timber storage unit for archives, wine and artworks. Slightly further down the building’s 25 metre long central corridor lies the 123 square metre studio-workshop, with a new power-floated insulated concrete floor and gallery-quality fluorescent lighting. A 5 metre long woodworking bench (used to make almost all the interior carpentry in situ) shares the space with two 6 x 3 metre work and display walls for visual art. The space has an independent access and can be used for exhibitions.
The ballroom, located above the studio and cellar, has 5 metre high ceilings, a 97 square metre dance floor, surrounding platforms with original built-in furniture and a balcony with original tables and benches. Its total size is 204 square metres. Wall decorations -partly faded- have been stabilised and partially-restored by Bridget O’Rourke; otherwise the space is untouched and consistent with its state after the 1930 repairs and the subsequent 80-plus years of patina and use.
Client: SCI Wallflower
Size: 400 m2
Studio Andrew Todd architects
L+A Landscape Architects
Contractors and suppliers:
Studio Andrew Todd (kitchen and finish carpentry)
TCM Kitchen (counter and sink)
Kizu Junpei (drain)
Alpes Bourgogne Construction (concrete and drainage)
Gressard (carpentry and roofing)
Guy Barclay (electricity)
Sylvain Bénat (dry stone construction)
Durcerf (solid oak panels)
Rocamat (stone flooring)