Architect Amelia Tavella has just completed the rehabilitation and extension of the Convent Saint-François, in Santa-Lucia di Tallano, Corsica. This partially ruined building from 1480, listed as a historical monument, had been abandoned for a very long time.
“I believe in higher and invisible forces. The Convent of Saint Francis of Saint Lucia in Tallano, built in 1480, is part of this belief. Housed high up, on its promontory, it was a defensive castle before being a place of prayer, of retreat, chosen by monks aware of the absolute beauty of the site. Faith rallies to the sublime.
With its back to the cemetery, it overlooks the village it is watching. It has a front and a backstage. An olive grove is like a collar at its feet, a happy garden of heavenly food. In front, the spectacle of the Corsican mountains, a dizzying merry-go-round of passes and ridges that seem to move in the direction of the clouds and change their dress with the seasons. Here pulses the heart of Alta Roca. The beauty there is religious, supernatural.
Nature has grown inside the building, slipping between the stones, and then transformed into a plant armor that protects against erosion and collapse. A fig tree is included in the facade. The horn, the wood, the roots become structural, replacing the lime which would not have withstood the test of time. An essential component of the historic monument, we have honored this nature which will have long protected the dormant building before its resurrection.We have chosen to keep the ruins and replace the torn part, the phantom part, in copper work, which will become the House of the Territory. I walked in the footsteps of the past, connecting beauty to faith, faith to art, moving minds from before to a form of modernity that never alters or destroys. The ruins are marks, vestiges, imprints, they also tell the foundations and a truth, they were beacons, cardinal points, directing our axes, our choices, our volumes. Building after ruins is the past and modernity embracing each other, making the promise never to betray each other. One becomes the other and no one is erased. It is an interweaving of an older time in a new time which does not undo, which does not recompose, but which links, attaches, grabs, two unknown and not foreign parts, one of which becomes the extension of the other. in a sort of transfiguration. I have always built this way on my Corsican island, like an archaeologist who brings together what was and what is and what will happen; I do not remove, I hang, bind, affix, slide, resting on the initial ground, on the original work: the copper reveals the stone, the monument and it sacralizes the ruiniform and poetic state. The ruin is like the radiographic image of a structure polished and undone by time and suddenly magnified because it is raised and held by a reversible frame, a light frame, itself doomed to transform, to become a second skin and to possess a story. I liked the idea of a possible return to ruin, that the copper could be undone – this possibility is a courtesy, a respect, to the past, to Corsican heritage.I built the Maison du Territoire by aligning myself with the original massing. By mimicry, I reproduced the silhouette of the pre-existing building. Like the mountain scene, I retraced the blueprint, concerned with a symmetry of Beauty, nothing should strike the eye. I am haunted by the obvious. Each work is a work of love. Love of the place, of the building, of its mutation as one could say of a species which transforms itself from what it has been. The copper allowed a gesture of softness, it is feminine like stone. Unlike granite, however, it approaches its grandeur, by its preciousness and its propensity to capture the light, to reflect it, sending it back to the sky like the prayers of the monks and the faithful who address themselves to the Most High.
Its moucharabiés direct the light inwards, light captured and diffused as if it were passing through the stained-glass window of a church. A noble and dazzling material in the first sense of the term, copper transforms the place into an experience. The sun falls there and carries away.”