In Crestet, Claude and François Stahly’s listed, art studio-home
on the edge of the Dentelles-de-Montmirail mountain range
Saint-Marcellin-lès-Vaison, VAUCLUSE provence-cote-dazur 84110 FR

Location

On the northern foothills of the Dentelles-de-Montmirail mountain range, famous for its face climbing, its wines and its truffles, in the midst of the forest, this property stands on the north-west slope of a thalweg, enjoying outstanding views of the Ouvèze Valley and the Nyons mountains. Just a stone’s throw from the village of Crestet and a few miles to the south of Vaison-la-Romaine. 40 minutes from Orange TGV train station and the A7 and A9 motorway interchange; an hour from Avignon (TGV train station and airport).
This property is accessed via its summit, bordered by a forest road. The dominating viewpoint looks down between the trees, giving a glimpse of the art studio-home’s fifth facade: its maze of terraces and its cubic sections, linked via flights of steps, offering a clear view of the valley.

Description

Designed in the late 1960’s, this property is the result of an artistic, family adventure led by Claude and François-Stahly (weaver and sculptor), together with their children Bruno and Florence-Stahly (both architects). Living at this time in Meudon and faced with a surge of commissions, the Stahly couple asked their children to build them an art studio in a natural setting. The premises had to be able to house monumental sculptures and communal art studios. The project was set in Crestet Forest, like a monastery in the midst of a “desert” in the Cistercian sense of the word. The construction was designed in keeping with the ideas of its time and reflected the brutalist movement inspired by Le-Corbusier, characterised by the use of concrete and the severity of its outlines: here plain sections, concrete walls covered with rendering. The work took the form of an inhabitable sculpture.
Several buildings (listed as French Historic Monuments since 1988 and in the process of being classified) were constructed in the aim of accommodating a large number of artists:
“Les Hauts du Crestet”, the main art studio-home, housing the biggest areas and “Les Citernes”, to accommodate artists with a section composed of basic dwellings and an art studio, both designed by Bruno-Stahly.
“Le Moulin” and an annexe building belonging to Florence-Stahly (not included in the sale) completed the project on the eastern side of the site.
These premises saw the creation of several of François-Stahly’s monumental works such as his “Labyrinth”, which was sculpted on site and then transported to America. Following the passing of Claude-Stahly in 1973, the site progressively lost its dynamism. In 1985, “Les Hauts du Crestet” and “Les Citernes” were sold to the CNAP (Centre National des Arts Plastiques - French National Plastic Arts Centre) who transformed the first into an exhibition gallery.

“Les Hauts du Crestet”

For this construction, Bruno-Stahly chose the vernacular architecture of organising buildings of various heights around a courtyard. The tallest building, flanking the north-west side, provides shelter from the Mistral wind. The construction stands in a clearing with a view over the valley and Crestet castle. Bruno-Stahly deliberately decided to distance the landscape he was centring: a necessary abstraction for creative work. The result was a fortified architecture, where openings are gaps structuring the sections and controlling the landscape. The building, partially constructed over a basement and a crawl space, rises up from the slope. It is laid out around two patios, one main one for the art studios and a second, smaller one for the home. The layout, composed from the top of the building, gives an introverted construction, turning literally in on itself.


Terrace
The terraces, that constitute the original entrance, are designed as a pathway leading to the stairway tower, providing access to the three levels. Their various altitudes, resulting from the interior heights of the rooms, are linked by flights of steps. The maze of cubes sculpts sequences of light and shadow, contributing to the feeling of an inhabitable work. The immense, omnipresent landscape enhances the constructions. On the south-east corner of this level is an independent studio flat, with its enclosed patio. On the north side, under the highest platform, the terrace is extended by an interior mezzanine, looking down on to the art studio intended for Claude-Stahly’s hangings.
Garden level
Reached either from the terrace or via an access ramp on the south-east side, this level houses the main areas of the art studio-home around two patios. All the rooms were originally designed to intercommunicate with one another. The simplicity of the sections is highlighted by an attention to detail, notably illustrated by the design of the doors and windows and their locks. The proportions of the rooms are subject to the “modulor”: a system of human-scale measurement developed by Le-Corbusier. Around the main patio, partially covered by a canopy, is a dining room, the art studios and the storage areas. The ceilings, very high in this section of the building, vary in height in every room. The views over the exterior landscape are framed by narrow, vertical openings, enhancing the various sections. They provide glimpses of the scenery like fragments of a painting. Conversely, wide horizontal, sliding, picture windows open on to the patio, like a cloister flanking a tamed garden. The living rooms are laid out around a second patio, designed to resemble an atrium. The home currently includes a kitchen, two studies, a shower room and a bedroom. The lower ceilings contribute to a feeling of privacy.
Base level
All on a level with the concrete platform which extends at the base of the building, this level comprises a garage and storage areas. They can be reached from the upper levels via the main stairway.

“Les Citernes” art studio-home

The art studio-home known as “Les Citernes” is set on the heights of the plot, on the edge of the access road. Constructed over the water tanks (citernes in French) that provided sole access to water at the time of this project, the building is currently in a very poor state of repair. It housed several basic dwellings to accommodate artists who also had an art studio with an upstairs terrace, facing “Les Hauts du Crestet" below.

The woods and the verdant theatre

A pine and oak tree forest surrounds the property, with its very steep downward slope. This forest environment was an important setting for creation and contemporary facilities. A little open-air theatre, made of dressed stone, adjoins the north-east facade. The stage is designed either to be in front of the facades of the main art studio, support for the decor or for film projections, or in the centre of the amphitheatre, with the landscape as a backdrop. Set in a fire-risk area, the plot is now partially cleared of trees to ensure the safety of the buildings. Its landscaping would make it possible to restore the natural decor that is currently missing.

Our opinion

A complete, unusual creation, a brutalist setting for the work of two artistic figures invested in exchange and association with their contemporaries, Stahly’s “Crestet” art studio-home is the result not only of a creative gesture, but also the necessity of meeting a particular need: the construction of a building intended for communal artistic adventures from scratch. Featuring contemporary architecture, designed and fashioned by the then very young architect, Bruno-Stahly, for his parents, artists Claude and François-Stahly, these premises have continued to unite through the numerous creative projects which have been designed there since its construction in 1966.
“Deus sive Natura” (Latin for God or Nature), an expression of René-Descartes, repeated by Baruch-Spinoza, takes on special meaning courtesy of the relationship existing here between man and nature. The omnipresent nature is like an object of contemplation that human genius has succeeded in transfiguring within a contemporary screened area dedicated to the adoration of a new kind: that of uniting art and architecture.
“The necessity of a sculpture depends on its force of expression. The necessity of an architecture is defined by its function. The requirements are not the same and yet common ground exists” wrote François-Stahly in 1974. There is no doubt that these premises, which then become part of the 20th century’s outstanding heritage and which are now waiting for a new lease on life, bear precious witness to this.

Exclusive sale

790 000 €
Fees at the Vendor’s expense


See the fee rates

Reference 617954

Land registry surface area 6 ha 69 a 31 ca
Main building surface area 514 m2
Number of bedrooms 2
Outbuilding surface area 150 m2
including refurbished area188 m2

Consultant


Ménélik Plojoux +33 1 42 84 80 85

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NB: The above information is not only the result of our visit to the property; it is also based on information provided by the current owner. It is by no means comprehensive or strictly accurate especially where surface areas and construction dates are concerned. We cannot, therefore, be held liable for any misrepresentation.

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