Should this be seen as an antidote to a regional weather dominated, during a good part of the year, by the grayness (come on, we can admit it, most of the tourists have not yet arrived…)? Or one way like any other to compensate for a not always rosy everyday life? Still, color is more and more fashionable on the walls of Breton homes, individual or collective.
“Our town was declining, we had to react”
At the end of the last century, in Finistère, the Ile de Sein, Le Guilvinec or Douarnenez had helped to launch the trend of tinted facades. The craze quickly spread elsewhere in Brittany. But it is especially Spézet (29), who gave the decisive boost. “Our town was declining, we had to react, remembers Louis Rouzic, its former mayor. During the 1989-1995 mandate, we launched the project, organized meetings with the population and met specialists. The idea was to repaint the fifty or so houses on the main street, which was done between 1998 and 2000 ”.
“Spézet did not copy Ireland”
“It was a risky bet, recognizes the former first city councilor. Some residents were against it because it would block our center for six months. But everyone ended up recognizing that it was worth it because it brought us a lot of visitors who came to see the colorful Breton Las Vegas, with its twenty bars in its main street, its ballrooms… ”.
Spézet had been helped by European grants, as a pilot municipality for the coloring of houses. From firecracker red to spring green, from royal blue to bright pink, the small town has not been the same since. “We were a little overwhelmed at the beginning and the first colourist we had contacted (Béatrice Taburet, read our interview elsewhere) but whose project we had not followed, criticized us, at the time, for being gone too loud and to have copied Ireland, when this was not the case, cries Louis Rouzic. On the other hand, we were copied elsewhere! “
Embellish and enhance
Many other Breton towns have experienced a similar movement with an acceleration since the year 2000, whether it comes from individuals or is encouraged and supervised by communities, aware that this is a smart way to enhance their heritage. Thus, last summer, the Morlaix tourist office organized discovery tours of its rue Édouard-Corbière, renamed “San Francis’Coz” because of its similar houses and recognizable by their bow windows. A show that is indeed very reminiscent of the 48,000 “painted ladies”, in Victorian or Edwardian style, built in San Francisco from 1849 to 1915, famous all over the world.
The city of Lorient is not the last to have bet on pigments to enhance its aesthetic. Assistant for town planning and housing, Michel Toulminet evokes a desire to change the “old image” of Lorient, a “white and flowered city”, with uniform and often decrepit facades. “Since 1992,” he explains, “the municipalities have launched a proactive policy to beautify and enhance our downtown area. The work has been carried out in differentiated ways according to the four great periods of Lorient since its founding in 1666, often helping individuals and co-owners to carry out these renovations. You can check it in several places in the city, from the Bâtiment aux stilts to the Vigie which is at the entrance to Lorient, coming from Lanester. In 2021, we are concentrating our efforts on the main arteries leading to the city center and a reinforced perimeter that goes from the port area to the heart of the city ”.
A triple interest
Brest followed a similar approach. “Color has three interests, explains Tifenn Quiguer, vice-president in charge of town planning and development at Brest Métropole: it is a factor of well-being, an identity marker for a street or a micro-district and it allows us to highlight our urban architectural elements ”.
If the first initiatives were individual, in a street of the district which faces the medical school, the movement then developed, with the support of the community, in several sectors such as Saint-Martin or Recouvrance, with, to each time, the edition of a specific color chart. Brest Métropole also calls on a consultant colorist, Anne Petit, to guide individuals.
“We must not do anything: add color is not gaudy! “
“We have also created a fund of 35,000 euros per year to promote these colorings, specifies the elected. The assistance can amount to 700 euros for an individual, 800 euros if he mobilizes a neighbor in the same linear, and 1,400 euros for a joint ownership. But, be careful, a declaration of work is mandatory and you should not do anything: add color is not gaudy! “.
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