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La Valla : « From his breast flow streams of living water »



Redevelopment work at La Valla en Gier

21/02/2013: France
The La Valla worksite

Tomorrow, 7 February, I will pay a visit to the worksite. The winter’s night is very cold today. But I cannot resist opening for a few moments the window of my room in order to greet the Gier which is speaking to me. Its murmur, soft as the breeze, causes me to discover the echo of my own Gier. And I hear : « If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. »

I left Barcelona a few hours ago. I am coming to the worksite which is calling me. But I am coming also to staunch « another thirst », an interior one. For, as Saint Augustine writes, it is one thing to go from one place to another with one’s body, another to journey with one’s heart, in changing the affections…

The trip was rather tiring, but I am content. I feel the healthy tension inherent on the worksite, despite the hitches. A worksite which is, perhaps, one of the more humble that the Marist Institute is working on this year : the conversion of the little house, the Bonner House, perched on the slopes of the Massif Central. My continual goings and comings with my plans and drawings do not prevent me from always bringing along with me my interior man, Joan, who desires ardently to love and to Hermitagebe loved. Little Joan who, in a surprising way, finds in La Valla a different source, less obvious, at which he quenches his thirst.

The day starts - 7 February. L’Hermitage wakes up today covered in snow. Our day will be dramatic ! Not easy to reach La Valla. The little road will be clear, but it will be necessary to take great care.

Champagnat receives us with his white soutane, like Br Neville Solomon, the Australian brother with whom I have shared so many moments, these last three years at the Hermitage.

The worksite is also white : the wheelbarrow, the crane, the street… Only the friendly fire, which competes with the snow, gives off colour and warmth.

La La
La La

I imagine the winters lived here by our pioneers. Not easy, that’s for sure ! What force united those young men and their master, to surpass themselves and go ahead with their project ? Would they speak of « project » ? Were they afraid – like many of us, of times of uncertainty –  changes, new times ? Or quite simply, did they live in following the momentum, the momentum of the spirit which set their interior aglow, like this fire ?

La La

Christophe, with Br Michel Morel, informs us that everything is in order : « It’s OK ! » Inside, Thierry, the economist, puts on an apron and serves coffee. We are grateful to him. Stéphane and Yves, my architect colleagues from Lyon, begin to review the different subjects, while the young workers, very warmly dressed, work in the frigid interior.

Christophe has a surprise in store for us : there is water inside the house, in the substratum, near the cellar, in « the hidden space ». It flows through the rock, through the veins of schist of the excavated substratum. I can’t get over it. During these days of rain, a spring has gushed up inside the house ! And a little flow of living water, fresh and crystalline, is carelessly crossing the room. This spring must have existed from time immemorial, for on the ground are traces of furrows gouged in the rock by the ancient inhabitants. According to Br Louis Destombes, superior of the La Valla community, the brothers had already channelled it for a long time. Today, in removing the substraum, it has surfaced once more.

La La

If, since recently La Valla signifies, for me, finding the Table and, through it, encountering Marcellin and the first brothers, it seems to me that in the near future, the vitality of La Valla will greatly « overflow » us…

It is obvious that we, the architects, must not leave the waters « at liberty » in houses, far from it ! But I am struck by this little discovery. I see it as a sign that our Origin remains vigourous. As simple as that.

I look at the stream in silence. And the murmur of yesterday evening returns, the one of my Gier. And with it springs the second part of John’s text : « … From his breast will flow streams of living water… »

That word is fulfilled today.
Marists of the whole world : do not be afraid of the new times coming, rejoice !
The Lord is by way of telling us of Life renewed through these little signs !

M. Joan Puig-Pey, arquiteto

Gallery 1 | Gallery 2 | Gallery 3
Joan Puig-Pey: My workmen - 15 January 2013

The La Valla worksite

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