The Atelier des Lumières from yesterday to today
The Chemin-Vert foundry was established in 1835 by the Plichon brothers, Jacques François Alexandre and Hilaire Pierre, in order to meet the needs of the navy and railway companies by supplying them with high-quality cast iron parts. The two brothers, who came from a family of blacksmiths, became founders during the Industrial revolution.
The factory covered a surface area of 3,126 m2 and employed 60 people. The foundry produced castings of all types of parts in cast iron, based on designs and models, up to a weight of 10,000 kg. The foundry used a highly resistant cast iron, known as ‘Marin’, which had high impact resistance and high tensile strength. The manufactured parts were subsequently used for the navy, locomotives, and internal combustion and diesel engines.
On 21 February 1859, Jacques François Alexandre passed the foundry on to his two sons, Jean and Edouard. They ran the company under the name Plichon Brothers. Edouard Plichon was recognised as a highly skilled technician by his colleagues. He chaired the Chambre Syndicale des Mécaniciens, Chaudronniers et Fondeurs, and was subsequently made Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur.
When Jean died in 1874, Edouard continued running the business on his own. In 1882, he opened a branch of the company, the Grenelle steel mill in the 15th arrondissement.
Four generations of the Plichon family successively ran the foundry and the business flourished for a hundred years.
The international crisis spelled the end of the business, which was already facing stiff competition from welding and forging companies, and the manufacture of the first plastic materials. The company was dissolved in 1935; the site and buildings were sold to the Martin family, which is the current owner. For 65 years, the foundry was used by a tool manufacturing company. The great hall was used as a place to present the machines. The company ceased to operate in 2000.
Bruno Monnier, the President of Culturespaces, discovered the former disused foundry in 2013. After creating the Carrières de Lumières art centre in Les Baux-de-Provence, he had the idea of creating a Digital Art Centre in Paris. The Martin family, which was interested in the project, agreed to rent out the great hall and its annexes to him in 2014.
Photo: © Culturespaces / Plasticine
Four years later, after major renovation works, the Atelier des Lumières opened its doors to the public with 3 inaugural exhibitions: “Gustav Klimt” and “Hundertwasser” – realized by Gianfranco Iannuzzi, Renato Gatto et Massimiliano Siccardi – and “POETIC_AI”, contemporary installation by the creative new media agency Ouchhh.
Photo: © Culturespaces / Nuit de Chine