BORAIN: A group of architects pleads not to deface the Marian Sanctuary, the work of Roger Bastin

BORAIN: A group of architects pleads not to deface the Marian Sanctuary, the work of Roger Bastin

In the history of Belgian architecture, the name Roger Bastin will remain associated with the constructions dedicated to the church after the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965).

Among the works of art he designed, intended to represent timeless worship, the sanctuary dedicated to Notre-Dame de Bouring stands out. It is unique because it is linked to the apparitions of the Virgin. In all, 33 of them, occurring in 1932-33, left their mark on the city (which became Marian) and contributed to the development of an authentic and popular place of pilgrimage.

There was a time when crowds flocked to the altar built by Roger Bastin to show devotion to the Virgin Mary, or simply to say the rosary.

To protect pilgrims from bad weather, the architect Namur chose reinforced concrete as the main material, because it is economical, sober and soft, and able to create a peaceful atmosphere, conducive to contemplation.

“There’s still time”

Ten years passed from the first studies in 1958 until the project was completed.

Although the number of pilgrims has declined, the shrine remains a tangible trace of an unexplained religious phenomenon that has persisted. A place full of mystery that must be perpetuated and thus reclaimed.

It was indeed sad to see when, in 2021, a hurricane made rehabilitation an urgent matter. The non-profit association Pro Maria, the entrepreneur, reaches its goal: the start of the business is imminent.

In the plans, inspired by the musings of pilgrims and laity, there is talk of demolishing the curtains and platform and filling the crypt of Saint-Jean. Overall, the redevelopers wanted to bring the site back to the spirit of the times, before the Hajj season, by giving it the appearance of a garden. Which means more nature and less concrete.

The main goal is to highlight the location of the apparitions on the side of the railway bridge.

In their forum, the 16 signatory architects, including school principals, say they are dismayed at the lack of attention to the author of the original sanctuary, and more generally to twentieth-century architecture in Wallonia.

“Instead of destroying these large cantilevered concrete surfaces, on the grounds that they are cracked, let us go ahead and restore them properly.”This group of experts says. Even more so when intervention techniques to repair these concrete pieces exist and have proven effective.

They regret that many of Roger Bastin’s achievements have been distorted, neglected, or simply destroyed. So you must stop.

There is only a problem of timing: architects like the Gendarmerie Offenbach arrive when everything is perfect. Obviously, after granting the permit dating back to August 21, 2023, any question seems out of the question. “Excavators are definitely on the edge of the site but there is still time.”“, reacts one of the signatories, Pablo Luast.

Concrete sails

The president of ASBL Pro Maria, Me Étienne Beguin, insists on the fact that the permit is the result of a reflection launched 10 years ago, and for 3 years with the help of appointed architects.

“We are not rebuilding the sanctuary identically but modernizing it, and this includes revegetating the building. Moreover, we do not touch any essential element of Roger Bastin’s work.”And he confirms. This is demonstrated by the Basilica, the foundational piece of Roger Bastin’s work at the Boring Reserve. In light of what concrete canopies pass for details. “It was not possible to think of the garden without touching the umbrellas.”, He said. Without even mentioning that these sober concrete sails, so thin thanks to their hyperbolic shape, lie on the vault, broken by time. “The consulting engineer was clear on this point: it is impossible to maintain. “We still can, but at the cost of a significant budget increase.”The head of the non-profit association adds. Unsustainable.

For the latter, time is running out. Because the site remains intended to accommodate crowds. However, it is currently suffering from its danger, as 150,000 pilgrims come year after year to recharge their batteries. “So we would like the farms to be in the ground in the spring.”The head of the non-profit association hopes.

Professor of the history of twentieth-century architecture, Pablo Luas, has no illusions. Rather, he insists and points out: “They don’t realize the historical value of the site or what they’re doing.”

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(tags for translation) BEAURAING

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