21st-century City Combining Past, Present, and Future in One Moment
In the heart of Anjou and The Loire Valley (favourite location for the Kings of France before the construction of Versailles), near the towns of Saumur and Chinon, the famous medieval Royal Abbey of Fontevraud stands indestructibly.
In 2000 the site was, along with the rest of The Loire Valley area, included on the list of UNESCO World Heritage. Since 1101, when the monastery was established, a lot has happened during the time under the watchful eyes of canons and abbesses subordinated directly to the French King and Pope.
Today, this ensemble, of the 150,000 sq. m. of buildings is a place of buzzing modern life. Due to Patric Jouin and Sanjit Manku’s creation, the Saint-Lazare priory has turned into a modern hotel in line with the best traditions of hospitality.
54 hotel suites are decorated with furniture created by local artisans according to Jouin Manku’s sketches. Stylish and light rooms reflect the architectural features of one or another part of the priory. Regardless of differences in form (duplexes, attics, unbelievably high ceilings) have preserved the intimate feel of a shelter, partly thanks to the lighting (made with the help of L’Observatoire International) and proper attention to the acoustic effects. Besides, the style is laconic and convenient, for instance, headboards of beds are designed for comfortable reading, rooms are equipped with modern devices hidden from your eyes, and at the same time equipped with notepads. And so not a single smallest detail was left without designers’ creativity – from waste bins to tables and chairs.
But the part defining its style – is the hotel lobby. A large quantity of wood with minimum finishing adds the warmth to the hall under the high arched ceiling. Plain shapes and soothing colours welcome you to a warm atmosphere at the same time keeping its fresh presentation. Same as in the rooms, lighting in public spaces plays an important role of a delicate mediator between the historical heritage and the contemporary design.
A passage to the restaurant from the main building goes through a covered arcade surrounded by an inner garden. The restaurant’s discreet elegance doesn’t distract but sustains your feeling of presence in a monumental building with remarkable history. Light wood furniture, stone benches turned to sofas, and large wooden chandeliers hanging above the tables play an important role in absorbing ambient sounds. Everything is designed to create a place with inspiration while enjoying the meal. Besides occasionally seeing a chef collecting herbs planted by himself, the tables will be set with ceramic ware created by a Charles Hair. The ceramist who lives nearby and is famous for his works, now designed great collection in cooperation with Patrick Jouin.
Having seen everything here, you get a chance to stay a while longer and explore the history of Fontevraud in a bar located in a former chapel. Where monolith oak tables carved out of century-old logs from the reserves of Ateliers Perrault Freres are equipped with touchscreens and telescopic lamps. Digital modernity rhymes with the monks’ past – it’s more than a bar but not a chapel anymore.