Le Vent des Forêts

Part of an ambitious contemporary art programme in a verdant forest in the heart of Lorraine, Matali Crasset's new woodland houses allow visitors to live and enjoy nature with minimal impact.

Although not the most accessible, Matali Crasset’s new work in progress is fascinating and a real experience. However, you must be willing to embrace its intrinsic woodland philosophy, and surrender yourself to the natural afflatus of the host locations. “Le Vent des Forêts” is a contemporary art programme that spreads its strong utopian visions across the heart of Lorraine, France. In 45 km of paths, more than 90 artworks dot a verdant forest that spans six farming communities, in an extraordinary open-air route in the Meuse — amidst World War I memories and the new cultural geography redesigned by the Pompidou Metz.
Matali Crasset
Top: Matali Crasset, Noisette house. Photo by Camille Gresset. Above: Matali Crasset, Nichoir house. Photo by Camille Hofgaertner
This is the context where Matali Crasset has completed her first two Maisons Sylvestres [“woodland houses”] — Nichoir and Noisette. Like a modern-day elf, the French designer received the Order of Arts and Letters right outside one of the cabins, on their opening day. This was a wonderful surprise for Crasset, someone who is strongly committed to design founded on ethical and eco-friendly choices. These first two structures reflect her Minimalist design and are part of a series that will, over time, develop a structure that allows visitors to live in the forest and enjoy its artworks, which seem spontaneous — especially in their lightness of form.
Matali Crasset
Matali Crasset, Nichoir house. Photo by Sébastien Agnetti
These cabins will allow you to blend in, recharge your batteries and experience nature with zero impact. Noisette is designed for bird-watching, without interfering with the bird’s natural habitat. The straw roof, rope structures and silent space for woodland living stem from a very radical cabin brief that includes sharing the watercourse with the surrounding flora and fauna and adopting the natural rhythms of the forest. No electricity, just a wood oven for a campfire and heat. The Noisette is a little gem that will take you back to your childhood, but also to ways of living governed by now-forgotten biorhythms.
Matali Crasset
Matali Crasset posing at the Nichoir house. Photo by Sébastien-Agnetti
Nichoir is Matali Crasset’s second module, evoking the utopia described in the Blobterre project seen at the Pompidou a few months back. It is almost a cabin-theatre, offering shared experiences and a coming together based on the rhythm of contemporary tribalism, to interpret and reread the signs sent to our senses every day by the great encyclopaedia of the natural world. When you enter into contact with these structures, you simply want to abandon urban rules and immerse yourself in the primordial.
Matali Crasset
Matali Crasset, Nichoir house. Internal view
It is interesting to observe that, throughout the project, Crasset — whose work centres on the harnessing of local resources — has managed to create a point of contact between the region’s industrial and craft dimensions. Small firms, associations and artisans all help to build and develop her designs (and the more and less ephemeral artworks that dot the landscape). The metal structures are developed and built by Gigot and volunteer manpower Les Compagnons des Chemin de Ville sources individuals from programmes involving local high-school students. This eco-project is bringing the whole community back together again. Ivo Bonacorsi

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