La Grande Place, "Saint-Louis" Crystal Museum

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La Grande Place, "Saint-Louis" Crystal Museum
Crystal manufacturer since 1571, Saint-Louis Crystal is an exceptional industrial site situated in the heart of the Vosges forests in the Bitche region of France. By installing its museum here, Saint Louis Crystal is both assuming and reinforcing its ties to this small industrial town, whose life, both past and present, depends on crystal. FRAGILE AND TITANIC To produce highly refined, modestly sized objects, man has installed enormous machines that handle heavy, dangerous materials (lead, arsenic, sulphur) and operate in extreme conditions (oven at 1500°C). This subjugation of the titanic with the fragile is without a doubt one of the things that fascinates people the most when they visit the crystal factory. SAINT-LOUI'S ATTIC, THE CRYSTAL ROOM Those who have the privilege of visiting the attic, where all of the collection’s historical pieces are grouped together, are struck by the contrast between the rough, solid wood structure and the preciousness of the crystal that sparkles in the half-light of the 19th century buildings’ ancient roof timbers. BRINGING TO LIFE THE "ATTIC" IDEA IN THE NEW MUSEUM The new museum is inspired by the buildings’ actual attic and tries to retranscribe the contrast of the forces in play (fragile and colossal), as much by the lighting as by the relations between materials and the way objects are accumulated and presented. The museum’s gallery is installed in a large, still active hall where an old oven used to be. The museum is set up as a gently sloping linear promenade around large wooden shelves wrapped in polycarbonate. Throughout the visit, one discovers the nature of crystal and its ties with fire, the techniques and expertise used to shape it, and Saint-Louis’ historical collection of objects. Twice visitors are afforded views from above of the rest of the building and manufacturing process. Large suspended diving boards project the visitor into the hall below and enable him to watch the crystal blowers in action around the 12-pot oven. The staging offers a narrative between creation, patrimony, actuality and the contemporary. The visitor’s journey is sequential, with each sequence offering a particular situation, a way of looking at and discovering crystal. The visit ends in the upper part of the museum in an open space ideal for presenting contemporary creations or temporary exhibits. The timbers’ tree-like structure is particularly visible from this vantage point, and gives this space all of its architectural quality. Here, the image evoked by the attic takes on it full meaning. Within the central atrium, open above the pit left by the oven, a variation of crystal chandeliers (60 to 120 lights) is suspended from the super structure creating a specific luminosity within the heart of the museum itself. Visitors then descend a stairway that returns them to where they started. They exit via the Saint-Louis boutique, which has been set up in a building adjoining the main hall.

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