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The Centre international d'art et du paysage de l'île de Vassivière

The International Center of Art and Landscape at Vassivière Island, designed by Aldo Rossi and Xavier Fabre, is notable for its emblematic architecture and exceptionally striking and beautiful landscape.

Often presented as one of the most unique institutions in the French and international art circuit, the Art Center of Vassivière Island is a place dedicated to contemporary creation, experimentation, production, research, exchange, training and reception. A habitable and convivial place for art on a human scale, with a succession of temporary exhibits. Over months and years, great names have exhibited their works in this space devoted to contemporary art artists such as Pierre Bismuth, Hubert Duprat, Yona Friedman, Cyprien Gaillard, Thomas Hirschhorn, Fabrice Hyber, Huang Yong Ping, Koo Jeong-A, Joseph Kosuth, Bertrand Lavier, Claude Lévêque, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Gregor Schneider, Tino Sehgal...

Also on the Island, the sculpture's wood is splendid at all seasons of the year, free of charge all year round and a welcome place for international artists such as Adel Abdessemed, Marco Boggio Sella, Ilya et Emilia Kabakov, Olivier Mosset, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Michael Sailstorfer to project their permanent or temporary, monumental or discreet works.

The art center stands on Vassivi ère Island in the middle of a lake measuring 1,000 hectares at 700 meters high. It is reached by a footbridge that lets the visitor discover the lighthouse and aqueduct-shaped building.

The post-modern architecture of the building is seen in dual mode, composed as it is of two “contrary and complementary” entities: a tower-lighthouse standing on the edge of the forest and a rectilinear gallery embracing the meadow and pointing towards the dam, works of art that dominate the landscape and invite visitors to stroll and admire the natural beauty and the art.

The first work undertaken by Aldo Rossi in France, the International Center of Art and Landscape is a very peculiar building in the career of the Italian architect, who generally works in an urban environment. The context of the production was no less vivacious. The proposition of a lighthouse dominating the island territory, the first vision of the project, was in keeping with the way that the place was perceived. Rossi sees in this architectural element a place for observation and reflection that is horizontally prolonged by a place for studies and creation materialized by the building dedicated to exhibits.

A large helicoid staircase leads to the top of the lighthouse, lit by a lantern that gives off a Zenithal light. The lighthouse is detached from the Art Center pavilion, thus lending it autonomy and its signaling significance on the Island.

The open courtyard, protected by the roofing of the body of the Art Center, evokes a small square and assures a connection between the two constructions. The gallery fits snugly in the uneven terrain, on a gentle slope towards the lake. The reference to the aquatic milieu is the project’s conductor wire.

The framework of the gallery, seen in the rooms without partitions, is a wooden structure that symbolically recalls a ship’s keel.

Attention to local materials is ever present and integrated with the architect’s own culture. His interpretation of the materials guided him towards using a combination of stone and cement, bricks and granite for the body of the buildings, metal and glass for the lantern.

An opening in the little theater emphasizes the founding element of Vassivière Island: the dam that in December of 1949 put Vassivière under water. The built dam created a man-made lake and so emerged Vassivière Island – with a surface area of 70 hectares. In order for this to happen, a dozen hamlets were submerged and are now part of the imaginary universe of the region. The lake at Vassivière is the most important reservoir of a vast hydroelectric scheme that after the Millevaches plateau collects the waters of the Vienne to follow the Maulde valley. The ensemble is remarkable for being so well integrated with the landscape and for the arrangement of its well protected rivers.

Copyright: Xavier Fabre, Dominique Marchès, André Morin, Aldo Rossi