A couple of years back, looking at the derelict 1929 building, no one would have bet that Martell would open a cultural foundation in the very heart of Cognac. 'The Bauhaus-style building designed by Jean Chalard was in ruins; it had to be completely recomposed. It’s almost as if it had been de-listed and needed to be re-listed. It stands, however, as a vital part of the Martell heritage,' explains principal architect Olivier Brochet of Brochet/Lajus/Pueyo.
The new foundation is already unfolding as the future contemporary art museum the city lacks. Vincent Lamouroux's immersive art installation By Nature takes over the rough-and-ready ground floor in between the concrete pillars, with an all-white landscape that looks altogether muted, ice-cold and exotic. Testing notions of time and biological evolution, the white-lime covered scenery seems poised and transfixed. Composed of sand (from the flasks), wood (from the barrels), glass crystals and plants, it transfigures the materials used for the fabrication of the brand's Cognac bottles.
'Our vision for the Foundation revolves around the idea of a creative ecosystem, a transversal platform. [With] a brand new visual identity, an immersive installation by Vincent Lamouroux on the ground floor, a boutique area and the "Passage", which links the street to the heritage cellars, the Martell brand is catching up with history, and modernity,' brand director Axelle de Buffévent explains.
Spearheaded by director and curator Nathalie Viot, the cultural programme, she says, 'will encompass art, design, architecture, crafts and technology. At the core, we’ll experiment and challenge Martell’s savoir-faire with the help of designers, artists and the local community.' Further along the way, the building’s six floors will be renovated; the ground floor and rooftop terrace will reopen to the public in spring 2018, thus increasing the number of gallery spaces dedicated to artist residencies, exhibitions and research. The 6,000 sq m of the Foundation will be completed by 2020 with a spectacular panoramic restaurant at the top.