It’s hidden on the backside of an alpine valley. Following the Romansh, a watercourse that crosses the Oisans Valley within the Alps, a monolithic constructing of darkish rock catches the attention. Coated by a terrace and a bell tower, preceded by a huge round basin and flanked by a staircase worthy of the property of Versailles, one might consider, for a second, within the look of an unlikely 18th century residence. It isn’t like this. Regardless of its ceremonial airs, it’s in actual fact an industrial website – commissioned in 1918 – that’s revealed to us. A hydroelectric energy station with a reputation that evokes journey and exploration: the Vernes manufacturing unit. Situated in Livet, a small city in Isère (38), this manufacturing unit, categorized as a historic monument in 1994, had a destiny that one would assume instantly from a Jules Verne novel.
Its origin dates again to the First World Struggle. From the start of this stalemate within the battle, coal and mineral assets have been in Germany’s fingers. To defeat the enemy, France wants appreciable energies to supply weapons and ammunition. Close to the Romansh, the hydroelectric vegetation – which produce electrical energy due to the stream of the river and remodel it into motive power utilizing big hydraulic generators – then see the sunshine of day. Amongst them, the plant in Vernes, which produces tons of forged iron a day for the aim of constructing shells. However this one stands out from its little sisters. Fruit of a utopian imaginative and prescient: that of its founder, a sure Charles-Albert Keller (1874-1940).
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This captain of business from Lorraine, from a modest household, had already put in factories in Livet as early as 1902. Requested, by means of his firm SKL, to contribute to the “conflict effort”, he determined to make Vernes a middle for the manufacturing of shells. , however above all a monument to the glory of the business. He then appealed to Grenoble’s architectural designers to erect a set of ” fantastic architectural magnificence “. The plant was inbuilt document time: from February 1917 to September 1918. The outcome, nonetheless seen to guests at this time, is prodigious. A daring marriage between classicism and industrial type. The manufacturing constructing, geared up with two gigantic generators situated in an engine room, it’s illuminated by a sublime glass roof. A belfry -or belfry- tops the entire, with the intertwined acronym of SKL. In entrance, a basin, which serves as a spillway for the overflow of waters. of the Romansh, is imagined as an imposing fountain. An aquatic spectacle that may be admired from a monumental staircase that connects the 2 ranges of the plant to a French backyard. This inexperienced area was conceived as a lung for the staff, however above all for the engineer’s household and executives, as proven within the interval pictures exhibited on the Musée de la Romanche, a vital cultural area for individuals who wish to know extra about this area at the start of the twentieth century.” I wished to exhibit that white coal and tourism are reconcilable, after which I wished to deliver a contribution to its beautification to a rustic to which I’m strongly linked. Lastly, and that is very pricey to me, to supply my individuals, whom I esteem, yet another proof of my affectionate concern, giving them the actual profit of those ornaments that beautify your life and that of your loved ones right here somewhat. “, explains Keller throughout a speech earlier than a gaggle of engineers in Could 1926.
Welcome to “Kellerland”
Like a great patronizing boss, Keller employs – and takes care of – his lots of of employees who guarantee continuity of provide to the community 24 hours a day. Blockers, machinists, manufacturing unit managers… Livet turns into a type of “Kellerland” the place these employees – French and immigrants – are housed in dormitory buildings situated as shut as potential to the manufacturing unit. There’s a cinema put in there, the place the movies are rigorously chosen by Keller’s mom, in addition to a dispensary the place a “drop of milk” service ensures the follow-up of pregnant girls. This constructing, which nonetheless exists, is without doubt one of the final testimonies of Keller’s social and medical venture. The industrialist goes even additional by making a “hive”, a buying cooperative that sells tickets and tokens to employees in order that they do not swallow their wages within the many cafes within the space… An actual eye of Moscow is lastly being constructed – to take care of all these little individuals – an administrative constructing adorned with ceramics and, above all, a four-story pavilion constructed on stilts. An eagle’s nest topped by a bay window that proudly dominates the Romansh and surrounding buildings. “This giraffe home, adorned with balconies and multicolored stained glass home windows, is topped by the boss’s condominium. Under are the remainder of the household, then the executives in descending order of significance. On the bottom ground is your canteen. Every part on this pavilion is ruled in response to the proprietor’s needs. writes historian Anne Cayol-Guerin in the romanic journey (Ed. Glénat, 2019). Keller died there in 1940, then was buried in Livet Cemetery, the place he nonetheless rests.
And your hub? Opened on September 17, 1918, within the presence of numerous officers and troopers, it was then – like all French hydroelectric potential – underexploited, earlier than being nationalized after the Second World Struggle. Lastly, will probably be below the accountability of EDF, which continues to function it at this time, regardless of the official finish of its exercise within the 2020s. In any case, EDF takes care of its upkeep and restoration. “, explains the Cultural Riches Affiliation of Oisans, which organizes visits to this unforgettable place throughout the Heritage Days (18 and 19 September). However hazard awaits the Vernes manufacturing unit. Having grow to be out of date, increasingly more hydroelectric vegetation are being deconstructed and even destroyed.
Vernes hydroelectric energy station, 1 Route de l’Oisans, 38220 Livet-et-Gavet
Open on the 18th and nineteenth of September for the European Heritage Days (Free. Guided tour solely within the document)
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