With a plan afoot for Renzo Piano to add buildings to the site of Le Corbusierâ€™s famed Chapel of Notre Dame du Haut in Ronchamp, France, a perfect storm of good intentions in conflict is brewing. At issue are ultimately two types of pilgrimage: the original religious one of contemplation and prayer, and the latter-day architectural version.
The Association Å’uvre Notre-Dame du Haut that owns Ronchamp is within weeks of seeking a permit to build a new visitor center, a cluster of 12 habitats for nuns, and meditation space down the slope from Le Corbusierâ€™s 1955 masterwork. And when a building permit is granted, the Fondation Le Corbusier, the Paris-based keeper of the masterâ€™s flame, has said that it will sue, reluctantly. â€œWe are trying to make sure the site is preserved for eternity,â€ said Michel Richard, the foundationâ€™s director. â€œWe are afraid that in 10 years, the sisters will go away and they will be replaced by a B&B.â€
â€œIt is the most poetic building by Corbusier,â€ said Piano in an interview in his Manhattan office. â€œBut he made it to be a place of worship, not just a sculpture. It proves that a secular person could create a place of religious feeling.â€