A monastery in Sainte-Lucie-de-Tallano, Corsica, brought back to life by a restoration and extension project
Thanks to Amelia Tavella Architectes’ restoration and extension project, the Saint-François Monastery in Sainte-Lucie-de-Tallano has returned to life as an intermingling of past and present. Built in 1480, its ruins and remnants were preserved using an almost archaeological approach.
The past spills over into the present, tradition merges with the modern day – by assuming the perspective of both archaeologist and architect, Amelia Tavella Architectes created its project for the restoration and extension of the Saint-François Monastery in Sainte-Lucie-de-Tallano, in the heart of Alta Rocca, transforming it into a center for cultural events. Built in 1480 as a defensive structure and later converted to a monastery, this historic building stands at the top of a hill among the Corsican mountains, from where it overlooks the nearby village below. It’s most likely that it was the majestic beauty of the landscape, the succession of ridges and passes, and the lush plant life – all of which still dominate the scene today – that first attracted the monks here. In fact, nowadays the monastery is not only surrounded by olive trees, but the local flora has also become part of the structure, growing inside it and between its cracks. At some points, plants and small bushes have become so well established between the stones that they’ve formed a sort of protective shield against erosion. A fig tree has become part of one of the façades, its wood and roots taking on a structural role, replacing those materials that didn’t survive the passing of time. Retaining the tree is a way of honoring the job that the plants did as caretaker, preserving the monastery during the time it was abandoned.
And the centuries certainly did take their toll on the building, which, before work began, was a combination of ruins and, in the architect’s words, “ghosts” of what had been. This past, however, has been incorporated into the new structure, weaving new and old together. Conservation and reconstruction are the two keywords here, with the newly built extension standing side by side with restored ruins. This new section, built along the silhouette of the part now gone, was conceived as a natural continuation of the adjoining original section, as if each flows into the other. In this way, through the connection between “beauty and faith, between faith and art,” Amelia Tavella has created an idea of a journey from the remains of the past to a modernity that “doesn’t alter or destroy.” The ruins themselves are like compass points, giving sense and direction to the entire project.
This transfiguration of the past into the present is architecturally explicit in the copper extension of the original stone volume, which aligns with the first and imitates the now vanished lines of the lost section. In addition to being created in harmony with its setting, this extension, used to host cultural events, was designed from the perspective of a return to origins. Its copper cladding gives it an elegance, capturing and reflecting light and creating a game of delicate shadows. Its texture, predominantly mashrabiya, guides light inside, therefore reinterpreting the effect of stained glass in churches.
Thanks to an archaeological approach that brings together “what has been, what is, and what will be,” past and present are woven together in the Saint-François Monastery. In the architect’s words, “Past and modernity embrace, each making a promise never to betray the other. One becomes the other and neither is erased.”
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Location: Sainte-Lucie di Tallano, Corsica, France
Architect: Amelia Tavella Architects
Client: Collectivité de Corse
Structural engineer: ISB
Historic building advisor: Perrot & Richard
Acoustics: Acoustique & Conseil
Photography: ©Thibaut Dini
All images courtesy of Amelia Tavella Architects