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Didier Lobert de Bouillon Viéville, Donjon (Dungeon)

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About the Artist/Site

Born into a family living near Saint Germain sur Avre in Normandy, as a young man Didier Lobert de Bouillon Viéville moved to Paris, where he held jobs as an industrial designer and as a secretary for various art galleries. Although in his early youth he had had a deep desire to become a visual artist, he was educated in the field of metallurgy, and expected to continue the metallurgical vocation of his father.

Economic and family developments made him consider another direction, however, and in 1968, the year of the student revolt in Paris, Viéville returned to Saint-Germain sur Avre and to his family home. To achieve his aspiration of becoming a painter, he decided to build an annex to the family home that he could use as a studio. This project, although originally a practical one, grew for more than thirty years; instead of being solely a studio, it became a Dungeon that launched Viéville towards a new artistic adventure.

The Dungeon, rising among the greenery of the beautiful Normandy countryside, was built without any preconceived formal plans, but Viéville’s inspiration from medieval architecture from the transitional period between Romanesque and Gothic is easy to see. He studied, read, observed, and contemplated the work of this period, and the resulting construction is reminiscent of the defensive fortresses that marked the valley of the Avre, once a borderland between Normandy and France. Although he did rely on his intuition to a certain extent, the work was methodologically developed to respect the architectural styles of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Therefore, although he was a self-taught artist, the work cannot be considered as an imaginary or fantasy creation or dream-like architecture.

The Dungeon invites visitors to nostalgically reflect upon the illustrious artistic heritage of France, in particular, and Europe more generally. Viéville, troubled by today’s lifestyle and settings, wanted to adapt contemporary cold and cubic concrete techniques and materials to the spirit of the early Middle Ages, in order to show that beautiful and traditional buildings designed to be in harmony with nature could still be achieved. This art is not fancy, but strictly purist. 

With the Dungeon now complete, Viéville is now focusing upon a new project, converting the family home to an abbey-style house. Yet although he has evolved from defensive architecture to sacred architecture, his nostalgic efforts to recapture the forms and framework of the Middle Ages continue.

~Sylvaine Lobert and Henk van Es



Map and site information

Not Exact Address
Saint-Germain-sur-Avre, Haute-Normandie, France
Latitude/Longitude: 48.76859 / 1.2605

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