Saint-Martin-le-Vinoux Things to Do

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    Tour Perret, in Grenoble

    by JLBG Updated Nov 17, 2006

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    Auguste Perret (12 février 1874 - 25 février 1954) was born in Ixelles (Belgium) in a French family of builders: his grandfather was a quarry master, his father first a stone-drafter and later a stone-cutter. His father took part in the Commune de Paris and after it's crushing, had to run away and take shelter in Belgium

    Auguste Perret entered the École des Beaux Arts in 1891. Auguste Perret and his brothers, Gustave and Claude, inherited their father's building company. They had to run it and thus, Auguste had to leave the École des Beaux Arts without graduating

    They soon began experimenting with reinforced concrete. Auguste theorized a lot about its use. For their first project, they created the first multistory concrete building by utilizing reinforced concrete. They quickly established themselves as specialists in concrete design. Perret created an architecture that effectively blended modern theories with Gothic forms. In contrast to most modern theorists, Perret showed a concern for detail and texture. He established a connection between natural forms, classical symmetry and order, and the structural system of concrete. Although Perret viewed concrete as a superior form of construction to masonry, he viewed each element separately. He did not use concrete to form a structural whole in the way suggested by Le Corbusier and Walter Gropius.

    After WW2, beginning in 1945, the Perret workshop had been in charge of the rebuilding of the city of Le Havre. Auguste was personnally in charge of the buildings around the "Place de l'Hôtel de Ville", the Hôtel de Ville itself (1952-1958) and Saint Joseph church (1951-1957). The Le Havre huge architectural building site was finished after his death. In 2005, the city was inscribed in the World Heritage list as an exceptionnal example of post WW2 architecture and urbanism.

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    La Casamaures

    by JLBG Updated Nov 17, 2006

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    The Casamaures is a masterpiece of XIXth century mold concrete art. It was built in 1855 outside the city walls of Grenoble, in a place named "la Guinguette", in the little city of Saint Martin le Vinoux. Nobody knows why Joseph Jullien, a wealthy citizen from Grenoble decided to build an oriental styled house in this place, then called "Villa les Magnolias".
    The supporting wall bears 3 sundials, better seen on a following tip.

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    Maisons remarquables : Rue Félix Poulat

    by JLBG Updated Nov 17, 2006

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    This building, Rue Félix Poulat has an extraordinary décor. Do not miss to enlarge to view it better!

    Once a mold was prepared, it was easy to use it as many times as you wanted, which allowed to repeat the same motif many time. It is fast and inexpensive compared to stone carving. On this building, they took all the advantage of the system

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    The invention of concrete

    by JLBG Updated Nov 17, 2006

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    In 1793, John Smeaton found that the calcination of limestone containing clay gave a lime that hardened under water (hydraulic lime).

    In 1796, James Parker from England patented a natural hydraulic cement by calcinations of nodules of impure limestone containing clay, called Parker's Cement or Roman Cement. However these nodules were rare.

    In 1812, under the light of nascent chemistry, Louis Vicat of Grenoble prepared artificial hydraulic lime and he found how to prepare large amounts of this concrete by calcination in appropriate proportions of two very common materials, limestone and clay. He established scientifically the reasons why this mixture had to be used and how it gave such a strong matter, even under water.

    For more on the The history of concrete, visit this web site.

    This discovery has lead to the development on the concrete industry around Grenoble as the pre-Alps are an endless spring of both limestone and clay. This is why the Isère valley west to Grenoble (Saint Martin le Vinoux, Saint Egrève, Voiron, etc…) is sometimes called "la vallée de l'Or Gris" (Grey gold valley) And indeed it has brought wealth to the inhabitants for more than a century.

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    The concrete industry

    by JLBG Updated May 1, 2005

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    The first industrial concrete plant, "Ciments de la Porte de France" began to work in 1842 in Saint Martin le Vinoux. Other followed in the surroundings such as around Vif, south to Grenoble. Between 1842 and 1925, there were several dozens of concrete plants around Grenoble. "Ciments de la Porte de France" and "Ciments Vicat" are the main. In 2005, the "Ciments Vicat" company still exists (Ciments Vicat) and is one of the world leading concrete companies with plants in France, USA, Turkey, Senegal, Switzerland, Egypt and Italy. However, the peak was between 1875 and 1885, when concrete from Grenoble was exported to the whole Mediterranean, to New-York and Buenos-Aires.

    The development of the concrete industry around Grenoble has lead to a special architecture that has made an extensive use of concrete in two ways.
    - Artificial stones were mold in concrete and used for building
    - Moreover, an extensive use of concrete mold elements for the décor of the face of the building has lead to some amazing realizations.
    For example, a building Place Notre-Dame in Grenoble, shown in a following tip, seems to be build with stone while it is entirely made of concrete.

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    Association La Casamaures d'hier et d'aujourd'hui

    by JLBG Updated Apr 23, 2005

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    The building had been abandoned and was inhabited by tramps when in 1981, a group of Grenoble artists decided to rehabilitate this masterpiece. There are now 2 associations that have it in charge.

    Association La Casamaures d'hier et d'aujourd'hui
    13 bis, rue de la Résistance - 38 950 St Martin le Vinoux
    T?l : 04.76.47.13.50.
    Internet : http://casamaures.free.fr
    e-mail : casamaures@free.fr

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    Maisons remarquables : Les 3 Dauphins

    by JLBG Updated Apr 23, 2005

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    This building was the "Hôtel des Trois Dauphins" (three dolphins), the luxury hotel of Grenoble. At the end of the 60th, it closed and was sold. Instead of putting it down, the front only was kept and an entirely new building was built behind. The décor is also made of mold concrete

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    Maisons remarquables ? non !

    by JLBG Written Apr 20, 2005

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    These two houses on the right are ordinary houses, not in Grenoble city center, but they were build using the same principle of molded concrete though the decor is much more simple. They are typical of the many "ordinary" houses built in that period.

    The third on the left was built in the 60s in the style that was the most often found during that period

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    Maisons remarquables : Grand hôtel

    by JLBG Written Apr 20, 2005

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    Maisons remarquables : the Grand hôtel, rue de la République in Grenoble is another example of the houses that used the molded cement décor. I passed often in front of this place and never supected that the statues on top of the entrance were not stone carved !

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    The Banque de France, Bd Edouard Rey

    by JLBG Updated Apr 19, 2005

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    The Banque de France building was built around 1920 Boulevard Edouard Rey in Grenoble. There is no fancy décor, but a building that looks very austere though it tries to match with the Lesdiguères Mansion shown in another tip ! It, is made of mold concrete.

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    The ancient Chambre de Commerce et d'Industrie

    by JLBG Updated Apr 19, 2005

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    This building of the ancient "Chambre de Commerce et d'Industrie" (Trade and Industry Chamber), Avenue Félix Viallet in Grenoble, is an example of this XIXth century concrete building. All the statues, bas-relief, etc… are made of mold concrete as well as the corniches. Usually, only the ground level was built with actual stone but it is not always easy to make the difference.

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    Tour Perret

    by JLBG Written Apr 19, 2005

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    The "Tour Perret" was built in Grenoble in 1925 as a landmark indicator at the entrance of what is now called the «parc Paul Mistral ? for the « Exposition Internationale de la Houille Blanche ? (International White Coal Fair that dealt with production, transport and distribution of electric power)
    It is 80 meters high, octagonal, made in concrete rough of dismantling, with alternate levels of pillars and of confined. From the highest terrace, reached either by stairs or by a lift, the view on the surrounding mountains is completely panoramic. Sadly, it is not open for visits as it is now in poor condition (enlarge the photo).

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    La Casamaures, the sundials

    by JLBG Written Apr 19, 2005

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    The "Tournesol" workshop has created four sundials. Three are shown here on the base wall of the Casamaures. I suppose they give respectively the solar hour on the right, the month on the left and the zodiacal sign in the middle.

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    Association "le fil d'Ariane"

    by JLBG Written Apr 19, 2005

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    The other association in charge of La Casamaures is "le fil d'Ariane"
    8 rue Duployé, 381000 Grenoble
    tel 04 76 85 16 15
    fax 04 76 46 62 39
    fil-dariane2@wanadoo.fr
    An iron acrobat holding a star walks on an iron ring tighten between two walls.

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    La Casamaures, visit

    by JLBG Written Apr 19, 2005

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    Most of the building has been painted with a ochraceous lime wash while the embossed parts were painted in dark blue. The outside can be freely visited but the inside is visited only by appointment. Two slideshows are available, one on the "Casamaures", the other entitled "L'aventure de l'or gris, architectures grenobloises de ciment"

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