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A Monolith to Art and Contemplation

Studio Odile Decq

A Monolith to Art and Contemplation
By Caterina Testa -

Lying at the confluence of the rivers Isère and Le Drac, Grenoble stretches across a Y-shaped valley at the foot of the Chartreuse, Belledonne and Vercors mountains that rise sharply from the plain. The transition from densely urbanized plain to steep mountain slope is abrupt, so when in the city, you feel surrounded by the Alps.

What few gradual slopes there are have been populated over the centuries by small village clusters.One of these, Seyssins, located on the hydrographical left of the river Le Drac, stretches up the slopes of the Chartreuse to the edges of higher altitude woods. The green fairways of the local golf club - interspersed by pockets of woodland - separate the river from the first houses of the village nestled into the slope with spectacular views over the whole city of Grenoble lying in the enclosed valley below.

The Saint-Ange Residency stands on one of the first terraces overlooking the valley. A dark, sharp-angled monolith in the grounds of the pre-existing Tour Saint-Ange property, it was commissioned by art collector Colette Tornier, owner of the nearby mansion, as a temporary artist’s residence. The competition - extended to only three prospective architects - was won by Odile Decq.

The client’s brief was for a work/living space that would be sufficiently flexible and adaptable to accommodate the wide production range of the various artists who in turn would take up residence for a few months of the year. Adjudicated by a small committee, Odile Decq’s winning program was for a three-part residence echoing the features of its context: a steeply sloping, narrowly terraced, wooded plot overlooking Grenoble.

After inspecting the area and its many physical constraints, Decq opted for a solution that would provide unobstructed views across the whole valley - a sort of belvedere rising above the tree line.

The dark monolithic volume rises like a periscope from the...

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