God is in the detail
New Renzo Piano convent built below Le Corbusier masterpiece
The advertising guru John Heggarty recently described the Catholic Church as the ultimate successful brand, "infused with 360 degree thinking and the best ever logo". So if renowned architect Renzo Piano who’s created some of the most exciting buildings of the 21st century needed any publicity, he’d be going about things the right way with the state-of-the-art monastery he’s just completed for the lucky nuns of Ronchamp, France.
But, let’s be honest, Piano barely needs an introduction, his high-profile buildings include both the funky - Centre George Pompidou in Paris (with Sir Richard Rogers) and the elegant - Beyeler Foundation in Basel. Meanwhile, the Shard in London at 310 metres will soon become Europe’s tallest building.
After a lot of local wrangling, Piano’s concrete, timber and zinc convent has been built below architecture demi-god Le Corbusier’s revered chapel of Notre Dame du Haut (1955) making Ronchamp a holy grail for state-of the-art modern religious architecture - interestingly created by two committed non-believers.
The first Christian monks and nuns all lived as hermits, the ultimate test of their faith. Luckily isolation isn’t a prerequisite anymore for the 12 Poor Clare nuns who will live together in the monastery, each with their own modest living space, shared common rooms and an oratory.
It's not quite ready for an ‘Amen’ yet though as the building won't be consecrated until this Sunday (October 2) when Archbishop Luigi Ventura comes to give the site his blessing.