Ordinary Vandalism in Amiens

Attributed to Jean Herbault (1807-1880)
The House of Gédéon de Forceville in Amiens,
during the destruction on 9/7/12
Photo : S. G.

12/7/12 - Heritage - Amiens - We would, alas, need to create a regular column, perhaps appearing even daily, denouncing the prevailing vandalism throughout France despite the "heritage days" held each year amid general euphoria as if everything were absolutely shipshape in this domain.

There is, for example, the case of the destruction which took place three days ago in Amiens, a city which suffered significantly during both World Wars. This private residence, built around 1840, was important for at least two reasons : historically, this was the house of the Amiens sculptor Gédéon de Forceville (1799-1866), author, among other things, of the statue of Peter the Hermit next to the cathedral ; architecturally, probably designed by Jean Herbault (1807-1880) who built notably the Palais de Justice of the city.
This Romantic pavilion was neither listed (which it in fact deserved to be) nor, consequently, registered as a historical monument, which is not surprising given the obvious lack of protection of French heritage. Did this absence of status justify however the demolition permit issued by the Amiens city hall to the Frères des écoles chrétiennes, the building’s owners ?

City hall responded by saying that the city had no legal motive to stop the demolition, since "the permit is not compulsory : the Urbanization code does not provide for the issuance of such a permit when the buildings in question are neither located within the perimeter of protection of historical monuments, nor protected under the registration of these same monuments. [...] If it had refused, the applicant could have received the permit anyway and undertaken the work despite it.". This is true unless...the city "has instituted the demolition permit after deliberation by the municipal council [1]". Is it normal for someone to demolish any building in a city like Amiens without permit [2] ? City hall added that in order to oppose it "an application for protection was needed." No one prevented the city, if it had wanted to prohibit the demolition, from requesting the building’s protection by the DRAC. In short, city hall had various means at its disposal to prevent the destruction. It simply did not wish to do so.
As Stéphane Grodée, who forwarded the information to us along with this photograph, stated ironically : "Amiens est Ville d’Art et d’Histoire [Amiens is a city of art and history]". Really ?

Version française

Didier Rykner, mardi 17 juillet 2012


[1] See here.

[2] Footnote of 13/7/12 : We had written : "is it normal for someone to demolish a building in a city like Amiens (the permit application was submitted on 16 June !) in barely three weeks ?". In fact, the date was 16 June 2011, so this took fifteen months to carry out. This does not change the question at issue, on the contrary this means that there was enough time for Amiens city hall to apply for a listing but nothing was done.

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