JAMES HENDERSON – FINANCIAL TIMES UK
RICS AWARDS 2001- REGENERATION CATEGORY
The name: Castelnau des Fieumarcon the 12/l3th century walled village of the Marquis of Fieumarcon
The place: Lagarde Fieumarcon, Gascony, France.
The owner/developer: Frederic P. Coustols and family
Duration of the project: Phase I: 1978-1988 / Phase 2: 1989-2001
As a student, in 1968 and over a subsequent period of 18 months, Frederic P. Coustols then aged 24, researched, wrote and successfully published a book on the subject of rural architecture in Gascony – «Uneterrelointaine la Gascogne », Ed. Privat, 1968.
Born in the region, P.F. C. “s inspiration for the project was his love of vernacular architecture in terms of its’simplicity, in the use of materials, room proportions, scaling and space planning and the concern he then had for the countryside and landscape and the thousands of houses in the region, that during this period were becoming dilapidated.
As a result ofthe research P.F.C. understood that the farm owners ofthe homes were fearful of the need to implement refurbishment projects, including the installation of « modern-day » services such as electricity, water and sewerage.
Additionally P.F.C. learnt about a State programme, administrated by the Ministry of Agriculture, named, SAFER which then required owners wishing to sell their land-holding and buildings to do so, to the State. The objective of this programme, started during the time of the State’s implementation of a growth policy in industrial agriculture was to be enable the consolidation of small and supposedly inefficient farmers landholdings into 30 hectares + parcels, in order to optimise agricultural productivity.
The SAFER programme resulted in further numbers of traditional farm owner’s houses falling into dilapidation.
Coustols subsequently approached the Ministry with the idea to set-up an investment fund to maintain traditional farm buildings in order to keep the original landscape of the countryside. This approach was not successful. Twenty years later such a scheme was in fact implemented by the French State.
SOURCES: SAS Bulletin, the Lectoure Archives, Auch, Ministry of the Armed Forces, personal archives.
The origins of the Fieumarcon Stronghold can be traced back to the 1st and the 13th of 1231. He had a brother who was knighted by Richard the Lionheard (1157 – 1199).
Othon 11 – 1250 – was a faithful vassal of the Kings ofEngland, the legitimate sovereigns ofGascony and there was no Gascon gentleman more loyal to them than he was. Saint Simon and Catenat both praise the military prowess ofthe Fieumarcons.
1660-1680 – The Estate Stables were built outside the walls of the Stronghold. A document has been found dated 1683 in wich the Consuls, Magistrates and residents of the area acknowledge the hamlet of Lagarde and His Lordship the Marquis ofFieumarcon, who was at this time Jean Jacques de Cassagnet Tilladet ofNarbonne and Lomagne. The document containsalistoftheresidentsandsomeoftheir professions.Atotalof36 families,240 people out ofthe 400 inhabitants ofthe area, lived in the Stronghold, as well as the Marquis ofFieumarcon’s own family.
Jeannet de Condom, Consul – Joseph de condom, Magistrate – Jean M artis, Burger – Blaise Lacape re, Blaise Lafitte, surgeons – Jean Cadeilhan, Jeannet Gaudis, flax weavers – Larnazere, lawyer – Francois Bonneau, labourer – 1 carpenter – Blaise Bonne, blacksmith – Sieur Pierre Vidart, man at arm – 1 quarryman – 1 tailor – 1 saddler – Jean Castera, shoemaker – Pierre Goudis, brazier centuries. There was a Guillaume de Fieumarcon who died.
1730 – Emery de Fieumarcon died childless in 1760. His sister’s son was heir to the title.
The castle, according to an inventory that has been found, was in a poor state of repair and almost crumbling. Emery had never been there.
1797 – Assets were seized from Henri Thomas Charles de Preissac Selignac and sold by the Revolution. These consisted of «a building, pastures and land lying fallow. The building consisting of 8 rooms at ground level, beautiful arched cellars beneath them and 7 rooms on the first floor. All in an extreme state of ill repair. The rest of the said castle demolished according to the law. The resulting rubble, the adjoining terraces and the trees in the area are also part of this sale. The objects in the Eastern part of the property, the church, barns and stables, the lands suitable for ploughing and the commune of Lagarde to the North. The ditch separating theses areas and the central wall of the Stronghold.»
Reserve price 2.100 pounds. Sold at auction for 17.000 pounds to citizen Pierre Baquet ofLectoure.
During the 19th buildings deteriorate or destroyed them in order to avoid paying land tax When the school burnt down, it was set up again outside the walls of the property.
There were no more craftsmen. One house remained partially inhabited in order to retain «hunting rights».
Three houses were sold to gypsies who used them for storage. They camped outside them.
The 800 hectare area of the – commune of Lagarde had in 1960 only 125 people living while in 1841 it had a population of 477 people.
Excavations carried out while the Stronghold was being restored confirm that it included a fortified area whith ditches on 3 sides, 2 entra nce points, a castle inside, the walls, thirty six houses on the inner side ofthe ramparts, a chapel and the Estate Stables in the flat area outside the walls.
In 1978, all that remained was the ruined 17 century stables, the walls around the Stronghold, 17 ruined houses inside them and the chapel, all covered in ivy.
1 – The history:
The beginning of the Castelnau de Fieumarcon project
In 1978, Frederic born in the region with a known passionate interest in conservation, was approached by the local baker, to purchase three dilapidated houses within the original village (Stronghold) ofLagarde Fimarcon (comprising 800 hectares). Further to researching the history of the village, Frederic decided to purchase the whole village, with the exception ofthe church, state property. Subsequently, he « unearthed » the ruins of what was originally a medieval fortified village, with an original population in the 13 century, of approximately 240 inhabitants.
The Stronghold was not habitable at his time (1978) and the population of the whole of the « commune »was approximately 120 persons.
Frederic’s objectives, through the purchase of the village and his desire to regenerate it was, to prove to the community and the relevant authorities that:
1. It was economically viable if not more so, to regenerate existing buildings to rent at a «fair market « value, than to build new « housing estates »,
2. The indigenous propulation would return naturally to live in such an environment, preferring this to the modern State housing being developed at the time. This was deemed by Frederic to be sociologically desirable and would result in an improved «quality of life» for the re-establishing population.
3. It was possible to preserve the traditional landscape of the surroundings.
4. Using the human resources and sentiment ofthe traditional members of the community, it was possible through training and re-education, to re-establish and utilise historical craftsmanship and skills in the regeneration process of the village.
2. «The restoration of the Castelnau»
The first phase of the regeneration programme: 1978-1988
The regeneration programme of the village was implemented, with the support of limited grants and incentives, on a phased basis by the French State, totalling some 1.5 million FF for the 17 houses of the Stronghold. The agreement also placed a condition that tenants be offered a ID-years lease at a fixed rent, controlled by the French State.
In 1984, the church and the monumental stables ware classified (l.S.M.H.) as an Historic Monument and the countryside visible from the «Castelnau» also protected.
In 1988, all of the seventeen houses, inside the castle walls were completed as well as three outside. Sixteen families representing thirty-six people, came to live inside the walls of the « Castelnau », relocating fro m, the surrounding urban areas.The gradual restoration ofthe Stronghold had acted as a catalyst and by 1988 had resulted in the pop ulation of the «commune» beginning to return and growing to 165 inhabitants.
3. The research, programming and development of a «show-case» for sustainable development in the region
The second phase of the programme 1989 – 2001
As a result ofthe success of the first phase of the restoration project of the « Castelnau »and in light of the substantial human endeavour involved, Coustols, had by now, become more and more aware of the principals and practices ofwhat is defined today as «sustainable development».
Frederic’s growing fascination for this «way of life », resulted naturally in the definition of his next objective for the use of Castelnau.
The ensuing years resulted in the implementation of the following programmes, experiments and activities within the «Castelnau».
The purchase of two directly neighbouring farms and their depollution over a 4 year programme (completed in 2000). This should result in sufficient organic food for the stronghold and produce for sale to her surrounding economy.
Adaptation, refurbishment and furnishing with antiques ofthe houses and the creation ofl 5 meeting rooms, 34 suites or bedroom with their bathroom.
The restoration (60 metres still incomplete) of the 5 metre high and 1.5 metre width walls of the«Castelnau»,comprisingatotalof600 metres and the subsequent installation of appropriate illumination.
The creation and planning of gardens and landscaping, within and outside the walls, using indigenous fauna.
The ongoing use of local crafts men and building materials.
The creation of a library of approximately 4000 books focusing on sustainable development. (at the Palacio Belmonte inLisbon buy now). The preparation ofa programme ofculinary courses in regional gastronomy using organic products.
The financing of the development by Phil Hawhes (architect of Biosphere 2) and Andrew Hryniewicz and the San Francisco Institute of Architecture, of the curriculum for a Masters degree in Ecological Design, to be set-up at the future «Lagarde School» to be built on the farm by students in Architecture.
The holding of a 4-day Sustainable Development conference, chaired by the reknown Professor K.H. Robert President of the foundation The Natural Step.
The holding of ongoing cultural programmes in music and literature for masters students, involving the local communities. And so on.
By early 2001, the population ofthe «commune », had grown to 215 inhabitants and the project of Castelnau des Fieuma rcon received the RICS Award 2001 on the 12 of February 2002 in London.
The next step and objective of Frederic Coustols is the implementation of phase 3 of the regeneration programme, which will incorporate the use of the stables, the farms and the natural resources ofthe surrounding communes in order to open the Castelnau des Fieumarcon:
«The Historical Resort ,wich will provide, in theform ofa self-contained and secure « retreat » in a wonderful and unique environment, a state-ofthe art meeting place, accomodation and relevant supporting facilities.
The Lagarde Historical Resort, professionally operated, within a naturally designed and managed « sustainable environment», will be designed, for the use of both private and corporate focus groups, outreach programmes, forums, brain-storming gatherings, family gatherings, special events or master classes in painting, music, history, architecture, gastronomy etc.
The Lagarde Historical Resort is composed of 16 houses and gardens. 34 suites or bedrooms able to accommodate.
Tel: +33 (0)5 62 68 99 30