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Henri Alekan, Patrick Rimoux – La lavoir de La Margelle

Commanditaires - The Association du Pays des 7 Vallées (Association of the 7 Valleys District)
Mediateur - Xavier Douroux
Soutien - Fondation de France, Ministry of Culture and Communications, National Office for Historic Monuments and Sites, Regional Council of Burgundy, Syndicate for the electrification of Côte d'Or, Whirlpool
Aignay-le-Duc, Bourgogne, France, 1993

When the 18th-century Lamargelle wash-house at Aignay le Duc was restored, the Association du Pays des 7 vallées whose activities are directed towards developing the Châtillonnais wished to involve an artist in order to enhance the status of the site. The round-arched vaulting of the wash-house supports an outstanding roof of stone slates, and the rectangular pool has wash slabs on three sides. The water flows out via a stone channel to a little circular trough. A small adjoining house known as the maison du tanneur (tanner's house) completes the site which forms a particularly homogeneous whole, typical of the architecture of this part of Burgundy.

The two buildings – the wash-house and the house – are linked by a path of light encased in the ground. White light projectors were directed on to the stone-slate roof surfaces or placed inside, in the recesses and pools, underlining the presence of the water. This work met with the wholehearted approval of the patrons.

Alekan Henri & Patrick Rimoux

The commission forms part of the Circuit des Lumières (Circuit of Lights). So the mediator suggested bringing in Henri Alekan, a cinema lighting engineer and renowned lighting cameraman. He gained immediate fame after the Liberation of France for his work on now legendary films such as La Bataille du Rail (1946) by René Clément, or La Belle et la Bête (1946) by Jean Cocteau. His work is characterised by precision, sensitivity and poetry, though he does not strive to make the images aesthetically pleasing as an end in itself. A master of both colour and black and white, he was still working actively in the 1980s, attracting attention in major films such as A Strange Love Affair (1984) by Eric Kuyper and Paul Verstraeten, or again in Wim Wenders' Wings of desire (1987), among others. He had worked in association with Patrick Rimoux, a light sculptor, for several years as well as designing lighting for external spaces.