Orange, the ancient Roman city once called Arausio, gateway to a region with a long and strong history. Then a relay along the Roman Via Agrippa between Lyon and Arles, now a junction between the A7 to the cote d’azur and the A9 to Spain. For the past 2 000 years its inhabitants have, since Roman times, managed to integrate and harmonize successive cultures and heritages with tact and taste. Its quaint traditional Southern French “Provincial” style houses, Second Empire buildings and modern constructions always blending in with the remnants and atmosphere of its Roman past until one day in 1993 the then town council decided to build a monstrosity of a building and have the audacity to call it the “Palais des Princes”!… the city’s ancestors, in their Elysian fields, shudder in horror!
Looking out, from high up in the stands of the antique theatre, over Orange’s traditional skyline to the far away, solitary and windy slopes of the Mount Ventoux (1912m) a tacky, incongruous (local administration) building caught my eye. Yes I know… move with the times, live in the present and all that but honestly. Couldn’t the architects have designed some more appealing to the eye than that, because there’s certainly nothing “Princely” about it and please don’t talk about audacity, there’s nothing audacious about it, it’s simply a mess and predestined to be torn down as soon as the city fathers have conveniently forgotten how much it all cost!
Putting aside the political debate (in 20 years the town council has gone from extreme right-wing to centre right, via socialist) just how could anyone have the lack of taste, insight, imagination, foresight or even intelligence to conceive, build and sanction such an error. The building, a concert hall, is undeniably ugly, apparently very expensive and totally out-of-place in such an environment!
Just what ever crossed the minds of the then town council? Following the fall of the Roman empire successive civilizations had at least the sense to either use the ruins of their masters or copy their style, the Napoleonic era comes to mind, but this, this is worthy of Ceausescu. It totally lacks respect and consideration for its surroundings, heritage and probably its inhabitants, the same inhabitants who footed the billed for 15 years following its construction. 2000 years and more of history spoilt by short-sighted political interests… and what a shame to dedicate a blog post to such a subject when Orange has so much more to offer!