Péage Sauvage, Estuaire Nantes <> Saint-Nazaire


Nantes, France, Rotterdam,



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Péage Sauvage, Estuaire Nantes <> Saint-Nazaire
A permanent public work of art by Dutch group Observatorium for a nature reserve in the middle of the city of Nantes becomes an example of what public art can do for the environment.

It may seem like a paradox, but the story of Péage Sauvage begins like a fairy-tale: “Once upon a time there was a mayor who wanted to build a highway right through the middle of the town”. It was never built, and the highway bed, like so many of the craters made by bombs in the second world war, developed over the years into wetlands which were protected under the “Natura 2000” project and nicknamed “Petite Amazonie”: a nature reserve that is home to rare birds and luxuriant vegetation.

Access to this oasis for wild fauna and flora right in the centre of Nantes by the river is, paradoxically, restricted by the tracks of the nearby high-speed railway line.
Given this territorial conformation Estuaire Nantes <> Saint-Nazaire, the Art Festival which promotes Land Art installations along the Loire estuary, has invited the world-famous Dutch group Observatorium to come up with a project for the reserve.

The result is “Péage Sauvage”, a sculpture both as construction and as process. A 25 metre extension of the highway that was never built and an extension of nature. A “barrier” to leave behind the city, through a structure linking the new parts of the city with “wild” nature. The oak construction may be used in a variety of ways inviting contact with nature. As Andre Dekker said during his inaugural speech on May 24: " Since we cannot go inside (the reserve) we asked permission to let Mother Nature come outside. In a few years the Péage will not be at the edge of wilderness but an open space in the wilderness."

As the designers state in their presentation: “It will be a process of which nobody can predict the outcome... An Observatorium project is complete when the sculpture becomes a 'small public space' for programs of entertainment and culture related to the site”.

The sculpture "on the edge of city and wilderness" was unveiled on May 24. 

Design: Observatorium NL, Rotterdam, http://www.observatorium.org
Engineering: ECSB - Bureau d'Etudes
Construction: http://www.ateliersperrault.com/en/
Full Estuaire 2012 program is announced here
Location: Estuaire Nantes – Saint-Nazaire, Nantes, France
Photographs: Courtesy of Observatorium http://www.observatorium.org


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