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Two Projects to Celebrate 1000 Years of the Cathedral of Strasbourg, Alsace, France

The Cathedral of Our Lady of Strasbourg, France at night

A sustainable lighting installment will accompany the millennial anniversary of Strasbourg's Cathedral, whose foundation work was begun in 1015. In addition to this municipal project, an enormous clock will be added to the interior of the building upon the wishes of the diocese. The clock's installation is scheduled to take place between March and May 2015.

As winner of the diocese's call-for-projects in commemoration of the cathedral's 1000th anniversary, construction of a 1:1 mock-up of the "Rayon vers" is currently underway as of this spring. The tentative name of the project refers to green rays (rayon vert in French). This phenomenon can be observed every year around noon during the equinoxes when it is visible on the stone dais overlooking the pulpit's crucifix. The metallic structure of the clock is taking shape in the workshop of the sculptor Daniel Depoutot who has set up premises in a brownfield near the Alsatian capital's river port.

On a square base measuring 2.75 meters on each side, the imposing 10 meter high sculpture will pay homage to what the artist calls "the mother of machines:" the clock, the first automatic tool for measuring time.

The astronomical clock in the cathedral of Strasbourg, France


Total Art

Intended to hang across from the 18th-century astronomical clock that contributes to the cathedral's international fame, the new installation will inhabit the place once occupied by the clock's ancestor during the 14th-century. Lifted into place by hand and controlled by the movements of a toothed wheel connected to a system of weights and counterweights, "this work of total art will bring together music, lighting, and sculpture" declared Michel Reverdy, co-director of the project and president of the organization Musical Comédie. In order to suggest entrance into the realm of the divine, the project's designers are exploring the possibility of incorporating holograms.

They are simultaneously pursuing discussions with regional bodies for historical preservation in order to respect the monument's integrity, and also with the financiers of this 100,000 euro project. The local BTP (Building and Public Works) immediately reacted: the important builder Francis Kapp supported Daniel Depoutot. The three heads of the cathedral gave their agreement in principle, in addition to the promoters, a public works small business, and Speyser heating. "We are expecting 20,000 to 30,000 euro worth of non-financial support as well as an equal amount of cash," estimates Michel Reverdy. The cathedral's fame justifies the investment: aside from celebrating 1000 years, the building welcomes a million visitors every three months. The artists are only disappointed that their provisional work is not as famous as the Eiffel tower.

Sober and Unassuming Lighting

The other project, under the direction of municipal project management, is offering Acte Lumière the opportunity to finish their Strasbourg project with a budget of 2.13 million euro, including taxes. Jean Yves Soëtinck's agency is already designing lighting installations for the historic downtown area of Strasbourg, and is broadening their work with LEDs and white light. Less concentrated than the existing lighting, the new neutral lighting claims to be more sensitive to the appearance of the stone and the men working it: "The gradients will reflect the architecture's thickness and depth," explains the designer. In order to execute the plan established by the Polyprogramme group, Jean-Yves Soëtnick is carrying out his project with Lollier (engineering consultants), JCBA (architects), Ingélux, and Estair (technical assistance), with an intended finish date of summer 2015. The 600 lights will consume 75 MWh, compared to the 94 MWh used by the current lighting installment. This sign of the times ensures that the cathedral will enter its second millennium of existence on a path of sustainability.

Do modern additions such as the proposed multi-media clock detract from the ancient character of medieval cathedrals, or can the novelty only be good for the monument?

Credits: Images and data linked to sources.

Original article, originally published in French, here.