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The La Valla worksite



The state of work - end April 2013

10/05/2013: France - Photo gallery
The La Valla worksite

The last article gave an account of the state of work at the beginning of February. Three months have passed and here is where the worksite is now. A series of photos will let you get a better idea of the work accomplished.


The visible work

«  There is a time to demolish and a time to rebuild »  the sage of Ecclesiastes tells us (Qoh. 3: 3). These three months have been above all time for rebuilding.

It is still the team of masons who have had to do enormous work to allow the other bodies of craftsmen to begin theirs. Everyone knows that the roof needs to be made in order to place a building « beyond the water ». The demolition of the roofing and its structure was done twice : first of all, the building of 1822 constructed by Champagnat and then the Bonner house, cradle of the Institute. Work began on the upper floors and then descended. Quite a spectacular operation to remove the main beam of the 1822 building. A long and delicate operation, that of constructing a new concrete cornice on which the new framework will rest. How many calculations required to rectify the more or less curved walls, the floors more or less level.

A very professional work also that of the carpenter to install the gutters, the zinc, the tiles, to assure the watertightness. Once waterproof, this part could be taken over by the electricians and the heating specialist plumbers, followed by the plasterers (installation of plaster boards over the metallic posts for putting up the interior walls). At the moment, the apartment of the 2nd floor, comprising 2 little rooms, a bathroom and a kitchenette, is almost finished, as well as the little meeting room below, on the first floor.

During this time, the masons continued their work of demolition on the roofing and structure of the Bonner house. How much rubble and dust (dating from Fr Champagnat, accumulated in the attic!) Since mid-April, the structure and roofing of the Bonner house have been finished. Masons and carpenters have had to suffer cold, wind, snow, rain. Fortunately, they have been able to take advantage of some fine Spring days.

On the first floor of the Bonner house, we have at present one large room on a double floor. As described above, various groups of tradesmen are at work. It is no longer the Bonner house with 4 walls, floors and some chimneys ! Water, electricity, heating, ventilation, insulation, have been added to the old building. That means a work of co-ordination between the different teams of workers. That is going well.

At present, a start is being made on the ground floor : all the floors have been concreted. To achieve this, it proved a headache to establish the various networks : water, electricity, heating, but especially those draining the rainwater and waste water. The rock outcropped in many places ; it is necessary to use the pneumatic drill, to channel the water… To make the floors waterproof, the concrete was poured over a layer of gravel, and then over a thick insulation. It is certainly solid !

The future large room for meetings and picnics on the ground floor, as well as the toilets, are beginning to take shape.

As regards the Champagnat room, it has not yet been « touched », except for the placing of two concrete slabs for the floor and the ceiling. They will be « dressed » to give the room a rustic aspect. This Champagnat room kept a lovely surprise for us : the discovery of 2 ancient roughcast layers bearing the trace of sentences existing at the time of Fr Champagnat ; such as this one : (Jesus, all my love, Jesus, all my happiness)  «With your heavenly fire, set my whole heart ablaze ». The ones we know were redone towards the end of the  19th century. During the renovation of this room, care will be taken to conserve the trace of this story of the origins.


The hidden work

All through these weeks of work, there have also been the weekly meetings of the worksite : architects, company directors, owner, endeavouring to make work on the site move forward. Adjustments always need to be made, such and such a technical question resolved, a decision made about whether or not to keep some « mural recess » discovered by chance following a  demolition… Fine team work carried out in an ambiance serious and relaxed at the same time.

For my part, I am struck by the concern of the architects and the companies to respond to the  questions and desiderata of the « owner » représented by Brothers Héribert Pujolas and me.

For its part, the little local team associated with the worksite continues its work of reflection : on the scenography of the various spaces, the furniture for the rooms, the ancient elements to preserve and highlight…

In principle, the work should be completed in time for the General Conference in September. The essential work will be completed, but doubtless there will be all the « finishing off » : in particular, all that concerns the arrangements planned for the different spaces. To paraphrase Quohelet, could we not say «There is a time to make haste and a time to take time » ?  


Transformation from within

Would Marcellin Champagnat and the first Brothers recognize « their » house ?

Yes and no. Without doubt, in part, the exterior ; but for the interior, they would need to call on their memory. A house is like a person, a living organism called to transform itself and especially from within.

If the cradle of La Valla preserves some material traces of the past (this is a dimension of incarnation), let it continue to be for every Marist, with these important renovations, an invitation  to return to the sources. One of these appears to me to be this spirit of humility and simplicity, so present in our origins, and of which Pope Francis himself sets an example by his gestures and his words.
May St Marcellin come to our aid.

Br Michel Morel (community of La Valla en Gier). 

The La Valla worksite

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