Ronchamp Tomorrow by Renzo Piano


Ronchamp Tomorrow project by Renzo Piano

Renzo Piano Building Workshop has completed a monastery built into the side of a hill at the site of Le Corbusier's chapel of Notre-Dame du Haut in Ronchamp.

Ronchamp Tomorrow project by Renzo Piano

The monastery comprises twelve concrete living units for the resident community of Poor Clare nuns, plus communal areas, an oratory and a visitor's lodge.

Ronchamp Tomorrow project by Renzo Piano

The living units are set into the hillside in small clusters and have their own individual winter gardens.

Ronchamp Tomorrow project by Renzo Piano

Piano has collaborated with landscape designer Michel Corajoud to ensure the buildings blend seamlessly with the surrounding environment and do not detract from Le Corbusier's chapel.

Ronchamp Tomorrow project by Renzo Piano

The gatehouse is embedded in the slope of the hill and features a ticket office, shop, bioclimatic garden, meeting room and archive housed behind a glazed façade.

Ronchamp Tomorrow project by Renzo Piano

A palette of concrete, zinc and wood has been applied to the interior spaces to create a contemplative environment and link the buildings to their surroundings.

Ronchamp Tomorrow project by Renzo Piano

Photography is by Michel Denancé.

Here is some more information from the architects:

Renzo Piano Building Workshop

The Project

The scope of the project is to create a peaceful environment, whose quiet and discreet beauty highlights and complements the chapel, while at the same time enhancing existing facilities for visitors’ reception. Immersed in the lush vegetation of the Bourlemont hill, the monastery is a place “of silence, prayer, peace and joy”, where everything contributes to spiritual contemplation.

Ronchamp Tomorrow project by Renzo Piano

The project includes three main items: the gatehouse, the nunnery, and the landscape.

Ronchamp Tomorrow project by Renzo Piano

The Gatehouse

In order to enhance the existing visitors’ facilities, the original gatehouse has been replaced with a new more functional building that houses a ticket office, corner shop, bioclimatic garden and a meeting room, along with administrative spaces. Part of the building is also dedicated to the research and conservation of the archives.

Ronchamp Tomorrow project by Renzo Piano

Cut into the slope of the hill the new gatehouse merges within the surrounding landscape. It features a large glazed façade that opens to the visitors arrival area and parking.

Ronchamp Tomorrow project by Renzo Piano

The Monastery

The monastery is composed of twelve domestic units for the sisters with spaces for common living (refectory and workshops), an oratory for religious pilgrims, and a lodge to host visitors in search of quiet and spiritual rest.

The rooms are small independent concrete units that are set into the hillside (2,70m x 2,70m). They are positioned in clusters that gently slope down the west side of the hill offering a cleared view of the valley thereby establishing a relationship with the community.  Simple and spare, they are each given an individual winter garden, a space entirely dedicated to contemplation.

The oratory is conceived as part of the monastery. Positioned off the chapel’s site, it is embedded into the slope of the hill, creating a harmonious space with the chapel and the site. The oratory aims at being a place of communion open to pilgrims of all communities.

The building palette for the complex is simple: concrete, zinc, and wood to create an environment propitious to meditation.

The following photos, sketches and plans are all copyright Renzo Piano Building Workshop.

Ronchamp Tomorrow project by Renzo Piano

The environment

Nature also plays a fundamental role in the project, highlighting the sacred and remote aspect of the site.

Preservation of the existing vegetation and forestation of the slopes helps create a sense of unity and sacredness throughout the design.

The project has been conceived taking into consideration all environmental procedures possible to reduce energy consumption.

Ronchamp Tomorrow project by Renzo Piano

The Chapel at Ronchamp

The Chapel of Notre-Dame du Haut (Our Lady of the Height) overlooks the small town of Ronchamp from the hill of Bourlémont. It was built by one of the twentieth century’s most famous architects, Le Corbusier.

Ronchamp Tomorrow project by Renzo Piano

Marian pilgrimage place centuries, it opens to the four horizons as a space 'of silence, of prayer, of peace; of inward joy' in the words of the architect Le Corbusier.

Ronchamp Tomorrow project by Renzo Piano

Site history

Since the middle ages, the 8th of September, day of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary, the Chapel welcomes pilgrims ; the chapel belonged to the Church as property of the parish of Ronchamp. During the French Revolution in 1789 it was sold as a property of the state to a merchant.

Ronchamp Tomorrow project by Renzo Piano

A few years later, about forty families and Ronchamp‟s priest decided to buy the edifice back in order to restore it to its initial function: a chapel dedicated to the cult of the Virgin Mary, and also a pilgrimage site to which the local people were still very attached.

Ronchamp Tomorrow project by Renzo Piano

Thus, an almost unique and exceptional, the Chapel became private property, although of all of these families. Today, the heirs form the Association based on the law 1901, with regard to ownership of the site, the buildings and the image of the Chapel, in accordance with Le Corbusier’s written will.

Ronchamp Tomorrow project by Renzo Piano

The construction of Le Corbusier

During the liberation of Ronchamp in October 1944, the edifice was partially destroyed by artillery. The Besançon-based Diocesian Commission for Sacred Art („Commission diocésaine d‟Art Sacré‟ – „CDAS‟) it proposes to Le Corbusier’s reconstruction; Le Corbusier hesitate then affected by the site (its landscape, its human history and the fervor of its inhabitants) it undertakes to rebuild a building with the stones of the old chapel and a cloak of white-washed reinforced-concrete.Notre-Dame du Haut” out of the ground in 1955.

Ronchamp Tomorrow project by Renzo Piano

“Ronchamp Tomorrow” project

Launched at the fiftieth anniversary of the Chapel in 2005, a refection on the future of the site has identified the need to support more visitors to the site.

Ronchamp Tomorrow project by Renzo Piano

Click above for larger image

Silence, peace found again and getting back to nature are at the heart of the “Ronchamp Tomorrow” project. Three complementary construction sites have been launched with the Renzo Piano Building Workshop together with the landscape designer Michel Corajoud, to allow visitors to the chapel of Notre-Dame du Haut, both pilgrims and lovers of architecture, to find on the site the serenity they need to take in to the fullest the work of Le Corbusier.

Ronchamp Tomorrow project by Renzo Piano

Click above for larger image

The Chapel’s Gatehouse

As a replacement to the current reception building: Renzo Piano will build a new Gatehouse for visitors that is more balanced, spacious, open to culture, architecture and the sacred. It will also be the new headquarters of AONDH.

Ronchamp Tomorrow project by Renzo Piano

Click above for larger image

The convent for the Community of Poor Clares

This will consist of small living and work units for a community of a dozen international Poor Clares on the backside of the site; an oratory, and a place to stay, a spiritual retreat, will be open to all. Renzo Piano will bring the ensemble to life in a discrete way.

Ronchamp Tomorrow project by Renzo Piano

Click above for larger image

The landscape

The hill has been taken care of for more than 50 years but the trees today need to be treated, some replanted; the landscape architect Michel Corajoud plans replanting, remodelling some of the landscape spaces and a landscaped parking area, employing the standards of sustainable development and in the respect the environment.


    I'm curious: were the furnishings donated to the Poor Clare nuns — and by whom? I'm not poor, I have a decent job, and I could not afford to furnish my bedroom with the thousands of dollars of super-high-end furnishings that the Poor Clare nuns are enjoying. ;-)

    • Prouvé Rules

      The Chaise Standard costs about €500 (exc. VAT) and the table Compas is not sold by Vitra anymore but it cannot have costed more than €1500, that's not Ikea prices for sure but you get an exceptional piece for this price. I suggest you pre-order one or two pieces from the Raw Prouvé limited edition collection, I did, I was told to expect delivery in November. Can't wait.

    • martini-girl

      "Poor' doesn't equate to cheap in religious terms. The word poor reflects that nuns are to give up up their own wordly possessions and live with only the simplist necessities.

      A bed, a desk and a chair are fairly basic possessions regardless of design.

  • nathan6100

    Mean private accomodation for the nuns..

  • detailmercheant

    I love Renzo's approach to design and some of his buildings, but all those mullions create disturbing echos of a prison for me.

    • gavin

      I tend to agree with you regarding the mullions…

      • albatros

        visited the construction site.. these mullions really give a prison cell feel to the room plus they are made of pvc(felt really cheap)

  • edward

    Good to see the respect paid to the famous chapel. The Prouve desk set in the nuns cells are certainly not Ikea but they were not originally designed as high end, The money seems to come from this organization:

  • rock

    excellent project. as usual, renzo cracks it, architecture + context.

  • willem bruijn

    an acceptable balance between the engineer piano and the architect le corbusier: they won’t bite each other.

    however, the commercial approach of the new nons took the pure quality of this unique place … an architect would care about that!

  • design

    I hate the bright colour – really intrusive

    • Juan

      I disagree. I like the bright color. Just because they're nuns and wear black and white they can't have some color in their lives? C'mon!

  • laura skeeters

    One of the best designed religious residential facilities. I agree with the comments in regards of the mullions. The use of the slope site is at its best.
    Love it!

  • stefan

    Exterior images anyone? It was a big scandal because it's right next to ronchamp, so were are the images showing the context of the building?

    • thinkcreatebe

      There are no images because you can only see both buildings from an airplane. I have actually seen a picture from above, but cant find it anymore, but basically you can barely see the new building!

  • Nuno

    congratulations Renzo Piano…. by your architect ego control …. and good sense of the surrounding preservation… leaving the top place for the Le Corbusier building

  • LOW

    Renso… you can do no wrong :)

  • Perry

    nuns with helmets :-) priceless

  • Richard

    The main problem is the proximity of the new developments. The new work could just as well have been placed further along the ridge and the approach to the chapel left as before.this would have allowed greater creative freedom to the chosen architect and withdrawn anypotential of conflict with the original.

    As it is built, the most unfortunate interpolation is the precision right angle concrete barrier and steel gate set behind the graves of the resistance fighters to close off the approach to the chapel. It is at such a height that it sets the original (pre Corb) and modest provincial iron railings around the graves in silhouette and interrupts the main approach axis. It gives excessive emphasis to the unassuming graves and obstructs the first view towards the chapel. It is unfortunate that anyone felt the need to fence off the compound in the first place.

    The new visitor centre which you must pass before coming upon the chapel is in discord with the atmosphere of the place whether or not it is is set into the hillside. Other commentators have said that it is hidden, this is so only if you are at the chapel, looking back, but is now the most dominant part of the approach, being proximate to the car park. The cells are more discreetly integrated into the hillside. The original quarters for the sacristan and cells do not impinge on the dramatic sense of the building but now the main axis of the approach is aggressively interrupted by the succession of independent fins of concrete set into the ground leading up to the visitor centre, the centre itself and the barrier and gate.

    The vertical mullions of the new facades seem fussy and out of scale, and though possibly referential to early Corbusier details, (Savoie, Weissenhof) just create a busyness in the facades that is out of keeping with the original vocabulary of the complex.

    Though I am sure Mr. Piano has made his designs in respectful admiration of the original it is none the less a disaster.

  • Great photos! Love the first one especially – we don't get that perspective very often!