FAIT DU SOIR La Calmette will soon hold their Tour Magne

Calmette Stability Observatory under construction (photo by Yannick Pons)

Behind the construction of this observatory is the Syndicat mixte des gorges du Gardon (SMGG), which manages the biosphere reserve. The building in the form of a cubic tower caresses the goal of reconciliation between man and nature, precisely at the point where the scar of the national road crosses the landscape.

Just before La Calmette, on the national road 106 from Nîmes, motorists must have noticed unusual activity at the heights. Several local craftsmen are busy building a sustainability observatory along a long hiking trail. ” The residents asked many questions. Some even asked if the yellow vests were building a new hut.launches Jacques Bolleg, mayor of La Calmette, mischievous.

Dry stone landscaping

It all started with SMGG, which wants to promote dry stone construction in the region. Therefore, he announced this call for projects with the aim of reconciling man and nature, precisely at the point where the scar of the national road crosses the landscape.

The monument was built with stones from the Antiquailles quarry donated by Lafarge. The cost of the project, which receives financial support from the Leader funds of the European Union, the Occitanie region and Nîmes Métropole, is 55,102 euros, including taxes.

Sustainability Observatory overlooking National Road 106 (photo by Yannick Pons)

40,000 vehicles using the dual carriageway pass in front of the tower daily. Pedestrians on the far footpath as well. By its position on a hill, it will be an observation point for the landscape.

The cube tower was designed by three young architects: Morgan Baufils, Hugh Hernandez and Ariane Marty. Its shape is inspired by the capitals that dot the bushes of Nîmes, as well as the forms of modern architecture in the spirit of the revival of ancient know-how.

Sustainability of nature

“This is a real work of thought. Here it was an elevated place of cattle breeding, mutilated by man. Nature will take back her rights. We need to think about how people can live protecting nature, knowing that we have an obligation to conserve this biodiversity for our survival.” philosopher Dominique Andrieu-Bonnet, president of SMGG. In fact, resilience originates in the ability of this ecosystem to find balance, to recover from an attack, to be part of an architectural design. The project also has a social focus as it uses stones from nearby quarries and the work of local craftsmen. This is a return to the origins of the Chemin de Régordane, also called the Chemin de Saint-Gilles. Fixed marriage between the concrete road and dry stone.

But why dry stone? This construction method has a significantly low carbon footprint and remains supportive of biodiversity. Nature is taking back her rights. The observatory has refuges for reptiles, insects, birds and small mammals, which are the main food of Bonelli’s eagle, a protected species in our region.

The observatory has shelters for insects (photo by Yannick Pons)

The use of dry stone in construction returned to people’s minds after the 1988 flood. The roofs of the houses encamped on the heights of Nîmes were not washed away. These walls filtered the streams of water that hit the city. ” This method should be at the center of thinking about a flood risk prevention plan”launches SMGG’s Daniel Munch, who dreams of seeing hedgehogs nesting in the tower’s cavities.

Praise of slowness

This is the group of craftsmen who installed and fastened the stones of the structure: Marc Adeline-Bourgarel, Denis Burely, Clarke Orlando, Paul Soul-Beau, Matthias Bouaziz and Chloe Vervarde. They are all builders who explore places like masons of the 11th and 12th centuries. Even those who went from building churches to building cathedrals were protected by the Templars.

There is no binder. The mechanics consists of assembling, crossing raw stones. The secret of the plumb line lies in the depths of the second wall supporting the outer cladding. Hand-hewn stones are carefully cut with percussive blows using a chisel and hammer.
Matthias Bouaziz uses a chisel and hammer to finally determine the size of the stones (photo by Yannick Pons)

Large at the bottom and at the corners. Small at the top, at the rate of half a meter laid per person per day. Sixty cubic meters of frame for one hundred and fifty tons. The bench of lovers, inscribed in the wall facing the landscape, is carved. And on the two southern facades, Matthias Bouaziz installed wooden shelters for insects and birds. During construction, he left some coins to date the building, later… Paul Sul-Bo, mischievous, even placed can of Coca-Cola in the bowels of the tower. The opening will take place on June 17th.

Yannick Pons

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