in a troglodyte hamlet on the edge of the Tarn Gorges
In the French department of Aveyron (where its border meets that of Lozère) in the Occitanie region, in the Grands-Causses Regional Nature Park, on the edge of the Tarn Gorges.
This property stands in the midst of an old parish which, in the 19th century, became part of the neighbouring market town, to which it had always owed liege. Said town has local shops and amenities, whilst the subprefecture of Millau, some 15 minutes away, makes it possible to join the main communication routes (train station, A75 motorway slip roads). Montpellier (airport and TGV train station) can also be reached in 1½ hours, Paris takes a little over 6 hours.
The distinction between public and private land is confused throughout by vaulted, “soustet” passageways, running under the houses, and cobbled streets. These winding passageways within the market town go right through the property.
The property’s southern entrance, reached by going up a narrow street from the main road, comprises a little wooded courtyard accessed via public land. It leads, south, to a first single-storey building, used for storage and workshop purposes, east, to a barn and, north, to both the entrance to the cellars below and the stairway leading to the house’s main entrance on the upper level.
The house is divided into several sections over five levels in three buildings which are interconnected with one another via a second courtyard in the midst of the houses. Hallways linking the various rooms wind their way through the constructions, following the lie of the outcropping rock. Several “fleurines” (geological cracks typical of the limestone plateaux forming traditional cellars) are reminiscent of their illustrious relatives in Roquefort.
Constantly alternating between cavities in the rock and light-filled gaps looking out over the valley, this property has several terraces at various altitudes featuring panoramic views.
Granny Cournet’s house
Completely reconstructed and patiently restored by an architect and his family between 1972 and 1999, Granny Cournet’s house bears humble witness to the way of life of the market town and that of a local traditional home. This house, a tangle of vaulted rooms, divided but by wooden flooring, is a monument to the ingenious use made of the rocky cavities against which it is built. Raising and undermining merge together just like the roofs, covered with shale and terracotta Roman tiles.
The architect added his share of modernity, notably by designing an outstanding, glued-laminated wood, Oregon spiral stairway and by adding porthole-shaped roof dormers to the lauze tone slab roofs.
This attention to detail is also to be found in the choice of metal joinery and frameless windows, with their original closing system, that have been fitted in the many openings, all of unique sizes.
Comprising two adjoining vaulted rooms, the cellars house a fully fitted projection room, with its foyer, its ticket office, laid out in an old tun, and its projection room, filled with twenty red velvet armchairs.
This level corresponds to that of the lower courtyard on the south-east side of the property which leads to both the outbuilding, used for storage and workshop purposes, and a unique, vast storage room.
The ground floor can be reached either by using a straight stairway, going up from the lower courtyard, or via a pedestrian door, opening off the “soustet” passageway going under the house. It comprises, on the one hand, a suite of two vast, high-ceilinged rooms, with cross-ribbed vaults, paved with shale, the layout of which is the same as the cellars below. Constituting the centre of the house, once heated via a wide, open-hearth fireplace, they are partially divided half-way up by flooring forming a mezzanine area under the cross ribs. On the other hand and corresponding to the barn on the garden level, this level also includes a square room, giving access the public “soustet” passageway. An interior courtyard, set in the midst of all the houses, follows on from the two vaulted rooms. This courtyard makes it possible to reach, on the one hand, a “fleurine” (a room once used for maturing purposes) and, on the other hand, the hallway leading to the upper floors of the other buildings which are laid out above in a north-west direction.
The rooms on this level are divided into three separate areas, making up the living space. The two buildings on the east side include, on the one hand, a bedroom above the lower room, giving access to the pedestrian door in the “soustet”, and, on the other hand, to several rooms (notably a shower room). The building on the north-west side houses on this level a long, vast, vaulted room, featuring a wide, semi-circular, south-facing window, with a spectacular view over the valley.
The top floor of the house is also divided between several buildings. One of the two buildings on the east side has a room in use as a bedroom, illuminated via two east-facing windows, whilst the areas on this level in the building on the north-west side are predominantly laid out as terraces, with a small part of the building notably housing the ladder giving access to these areas. Facing south and featuring a panoramic view spanning more than 180°, these top terraces are on a level with the public road bordering the property. A pedestrian door gives direct access from the north side of the market town.
This elongated, single-storey building, reached via the lower courtyard, houses two rooms currently used for storage and workshop purposes. The first room corresponds to an area under the gable rafters, the lower levels of which are part of a neighbouring property below. It is illuminated via two windows set in the east-facing gable wall. A second, adjoining room, set at right angles to the first and extending from north to south, takes up a shared area that is not part of the property.
A stone maze between sky and land, an architect’s dream and muse in the late 1970’s, “Granny Cournet’s” old house has for many summers hosted a cinema festival in its little, troglodyte projection room, with its twenty red armchairs.
It is currently waiting for a new lease on life to continue the human warmth that has existed for centuries through winter evenings spent around the fireside or summers spent on one of the top terraces looking down over the Tarn Valley.
The many geological and cultural marvels in the local area as well as the unusual character of this loving ode to this age-old building can but appeal to nature lovers and architecture enthusiasts.
|Land registry surface area||314 m2|
|Main building surface area||200 m2|
|Number of bedrooms||6|
|Outbuilding surface area||30 m2|
Ménélik Plojoux +33 1 42 84 80 85
NB: The above information is not only the result of our visit to the property; it is also based on information provided by the current owner. It is by no means comprehensive or strictly accurate especially where surface areas and construction dates are concerned. We cannot, therefore, be held liable for any misrepresentation.