Visiting the Voix du Nord Building, place du Général-de-Gaulle, Lille, France: Neo-Flemish style by Albert Laprade
A conspicuous, stepped gable
This notable building, dating from 1936, is by Albert Laprade (1883-1978)(1), and is executed in Neo-Flemish style. This is particularly appropriate, since historically Lille has been regarded as the leading city in French Flanders (2).
Among the structure's salient features is its expansive, stepped gable facing place du Général-de-Gaulle, in Lille's Downtown area. Another of its conspicuous features is a statue of Three Graces (French: Trois Grâces), by sculptor Raymond Couvègnes (1893-1985), situated at the apex of the gable. These Graces refer back to symbolism from Antiquity, but also — more recently in their referents — to the historic French provinces of Flanders, Artois and Hainaut (3).
The building originally housed the offices of the Grand Écho du Nord newspaper. After World War Two it became the headquarters of La Voix du Nord, which began as the clandestine organ of the French Resistance in the Nord department. . After World War Two, many of the former journalists and managers of the Grand Écho du Nord worked on the new journal La Voix du Nord and continued to use their former office. Given that the editors of the former Grand Écho du Nord were inculpated for collaboration after the Nazi German invasion, what essentially happened was that the re-founded paper adopted the name of the clandestine Resistance organ and took on new editorial direction.
Among the early personalities associated with La Voix du Nord were its founders Jules Noutour (1897-1945) and Natalis Dumez (1890-1976). The lives of these two men somewhat illustrate the composition of the French Resistance during World War Two; the former was socialist in his views, while the latter tended towards a social Catholic outlook. Their reputations also show something of the inner tensions among members of the Resistance in that Jules Noutour, who died under deportation, had an uneasy relationship with others in the Resistance with whom he was ostensibly allied.
Today, La Voix du Nord is published with various editions centred on the other major towns of the Nord department, as well as having its Lille edition.
The ground floor of the building contain various retail outlets.
In addition to being a striking building which blends architecturally with its surroundings in Downtown Lille, the Voix du Nord building, because of its local associations, may also be said to be an historical symbol of the freedom of the press.
Lille is in France's Nord department, and is the centre of a large urban agglomeration consisting of many municipalities.
January 27, 2015
(1) Other works for which Architect Laprade was also responsible include the Porte Dorée Palace, Paris, the former Paris Préfecture building, colonial buildings in the former French Morocco, various programs of urban renewal, and many others.
(2) Interestingly, French language usage differs between France and Belgium, as regards the word for Flanders. In France, 'les Flandres' (i.e., in the plural) refers to a wide area which includes a sizable portion of northern France. In Belgium, 'la Flandre' (i.e., in the singular) refers to the Federal State of Flanders which is officially Dutch speaking.
(3), Like part of Flanders (see also Note 3), part of the historic province of Hainaut is today situated in Belgium.
Some sourcing: Wikipedia
Also worth seeing
In Lille itself, other noted buildings include: the Birthplace Museum of General Charles de Gaulle; the belfry of the Chamber of Commerce; the 17th century, former Stock Exchange; the tall belfry of the City Hall; the former Rihour Palace of the Dukes of Burgundy (now a tourist information centre) and many others.
Armentières (distance: 18 kilometres) has a striking Flemish Renaissance Town Hall and belfry.
How to get there: Brussels Airlines flies from New York to Brussels Airport (Brussel Nationaal / Bruxelles-National ), from where car rental is available. Brussels is the nearest large airport to Lille (distance: 129 kilometres). Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. You are advised to refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada
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