When I said I was going to Ronchamp in France, hardly anyone knew what I was talking about. Well all the architects do because it is a sort of place of pilgrimage for us in more ways than one. Le Corbusier, a famous architect, designed this Roman Catholic Chapelle Notre-Dame-Du-Haut in 1953, and the building was completed in 1955. Over the years it has become one of the most famous icons amongst the profession. The small town is situated in the extreme east of France, only 120kms from Basel in Switzerland. Basel itself is fascinating as parts are in France, Germany and Switzerland. The chapel is about four kilometres outside the town. Recently Renzo Piano, the Italian architect, has completed an addition to the site, which is mostly underground, as quarters for the Sisters who live there, and it is a beautiful site. The experience is overwhelming and inspiring - beautifully composed and detailed. Although it is on the top of a small hill in ungroomed grassland, it is completely accessible, though I don’t think this was by design. I could see the chapel from the hotel dining room, a most uncommon view.
From there I arrived in London and visited the famous Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew. The garden boasts a 200-metre walkway that takes visitors through the canopy of Lime, Sweet Chestnut and Oak trees. It is made out of steel columns triangular in shape, about 800mm each of the three sides at the base, getting smaller and smaller as they go up: about 300mm each side at the top. They are pre-rusted ‘corten’ supporting a 1,5m wide level pedestrian circular walkway with an expanded metal floor, so you can see through it, 18m in the sky. The main entrance way to it starts about two metres below ground level where there is an exhibition explaining how roots work, leading to an unroofed foyer with steps and a lift. The glass lift has a flat front and semi-circle body, large enough for about eight people, and a sign that said it was designated for Persons with Disabilities. I had asked at the entrance if it was working, and was told that it wasn’t usually as it often broke down because of overloading: someone else told me that it wasn’t suitable for use outside! It seems ridiculous that everyone could not have access. No one would choose to use the staircase voluntarily - it is just that high (about six storeys) that it is unattractive for most people. I realised again that South Africans are more inclined to be an integrated society than most.
Sackler Crossing, a beautiful steel bridge plots a serpentine path across the water. The deck is set the minimum possible distance from the lake’s surface, allowing those crossing to feel that they are literally taking a walk across the water. Visitors feed ducks and other birds from this double curved bridge and it is certainly worth a visit!