9 Locks of Fonseranes, France
SPACES: Best Landscape Lighting Scheme – High Budget
The 9 Locks of Fonseranes is the most emblematic installation on the Canal du Midi, UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Eight pounds and nine doors were designed by Pierre-Paul Riquet, born in Béziers, for barges to cross a 21.5-metres height difference on a 300-metre length: the technical prowess achieved in 1697 still fascinates 450,000 visitors each year. This makes it the third most visited touristic site in Languedoc-Roussillon, after the ‘Pont du Gard’ and the ‘Cité de Carcassonne’.
“The recent rehabilitation of the 9 Locks of Fonseranes opens the way to get the prestigious label ‘Emblematic Grands Sites landscapes’, which highlights the most spectacular touristic sites in France. A real chance to massively increase the touristic development of Béziers conurbation for the coming years,” said Frédéric Lacas, President of Beziers conurbation council.
As explains Philippe Deliau (ALEP, Landscape Architect): “the aim of this landscape design project is to create both an oneiric and instructive promenade throughout the site: the canal’s bank, the esplanades surrounding the buildings, the access ramp and the threshold alongside the nine locks, the bridges and the magic point of views on Béziers historic city centre. One unique ground guides the steps and one unique material is used for all the equipment, while modern construction characterises the new buildings.”
Fonseranes has many distinctive characteristics which make its strength: back and forth shuttling, locks opening and closing, spectacular and perilous maneuvers – movements which become, at nightfall, quiet boats rolling and water reflections, a captivating peace livend up by frogs singing.
The lighting project circulates on 1km through a dozen heritage elements: wooden piers, water coach house, locks, pounds, etc
At night, a succession of scenes is progressively revealed to visitors as they walk alongside the locks, with Béziers’ fortifications as breathtaking backdrop.
In order to make Fonseranes a popular nighttime promenade, the lighting design combines a true sense of poetry with a warm atmosphere, while respecting the kind natural darkness surrounding. The overall lighting scheme thus remains modest, but the most important elements are finely highlighted, emerging from the sleeping countryside.
Enchanting atmospheres have been created for visitors, combining subtle shades effects, coloured lighting and water reflections.
The project associates the warm white continuous lighting of the pedestrian walk which strolls from East to West, with scenographic lighting displaying the colours inspired from the shades found on the original construction plans of the locks.
These lighting scenes are created thanks to 30 projectors (dynamic RGBW on DMX network) fixed on five poles nine-metres high. Benefiting from a contemporaneous design that perfectly matches with the locks’ mouldings, the aluminium masts are placed in line with the axis formed by the vegetation, and seem to have been there forever.
Quite avant-gardist for the 17th century, the locks architect Pierre-Paul Riquet developed the local economy by using only material and constructors from the surroundings. The recent rehabilitation perpetuates this sustainable commitment: both the lighting furniture manufacturer and the installers being local companies.
The lighting scenes succeeding one another at nightfall vary according to the season and the number of visitors. The colours and their combinations can indeed be modified and renewed, the idea being to make Fonserane site live at the rhythm of visitors and events, and to offer a striking experience to the public.