The front of the Arab World Institute in Paris was him. The glasswork of the Opéra de Lyon was him. The Agbar Tower in Barcelona was him too. And the Quai Branly Museum in Paris was him as well! Jean Nouvel, the internationallyrenowned French architect, known for his daring designs, once visited our region... Frameries more specifically. And with his legendary flair for extravagance, he has transformed the former coalmine into a scientific adventure park.
Un maestro de l'architecture à Frameries
And yes, perhaps you didn’t know, it is Mr Jean Nouvel himself who has breathed new life into the former industrial wasteland in Frameries. What really hits me when I go to the PASS is seeing how history is still everywhere you look. Jean Nouvel isn’t the kind of guy to wipe the slate clean. He has a great deal of respect for the site and for the miners who worked there for years on end. Instead of demolishing them, he saved the most iconic buildings and used raw materials borrowed from industry:cladding and metal, concrete… Today, when you walk into this stunning science museum, you can still reach out and touch the history of the mining industry.
Passage de témoin
Outside, a huge tunnel is bound to catch your eye. This “Pass'erelle” (passerelle is French for walkway) is a symbolic bridge between all the exhibition areas:the Belvédère, the Pit-Head Frame, the Machine Room and the Exhibition Hangar. 210 metres long, it follows the route of the coal from the Belvédère to the coal-washing area, which is now no longer there.
“It symbolises the link between modernity and history, the journey from a coalmine to a vibrant venue, to understand the relationship between science and society,”explains a representative. What a great idea!Before diving head first into this project, Nouvel looked into the history of the site to understand what made it tick. For me, that’s what is so amazing about architects. They are committed to respecting a site’s soul and breathing new life into it. “It is on this site, imbued with history, that we have to demonstrate man’s genius,”he explained to the press when the PASS was opened.
And for no other reason than this, the PASS is well worth a visit. On an amazing 28 hectares, you can explore science while having fun, but you can also think about the past and the day-to-day lives of our mining ancestors. It gives me an idea. How about exploring the Frameries coalmine (Crachet-Piquery) with a former miner?Well no. 2 closed in 1960, it’s not going to be easy to find someone, but you never know. Watch this space...