More About Varagnes

Marc Seguin was 75 years old when he decided to settle in Varagnes in 1860.  He wanted to continue his research and projects, but this time in a practical and organized manner. The Fontenay Abbey, where he had lived for the previous 25 years and of which he was the owner, was far from being an ideal place for conducting scientific experiments and astronomical observations.

Varagnes was dedicated to various uses. Each building had its own purpose and style: a dwelling with “bourgeois” amenities, large openings, terraces, views of the park, and a large vegetable garden for the dwelling; a greenhouse immediately adjacent to the dwelling, with its Pompeian-style decor dedicated to practicing arts: painting, theater, music… The chapel, of course, had its own symbolism.

As for the building dedicated to research and creation, it is the culmination and also the embodiment of a process that began 50 years earlier, touching on scientific research, innovation, and more generally, creation. It is not a work of the mind, such as a phalanstery, but the consequence of a long experience in various fields and the decision to have a practical place to continue it.

Learn Even More About Varagnes

About its history: see Wikipedia “Varagnes, the home of Marc Seguin”:

In Marc Seguin’s logic, the place is temporary: what is a relevant tool at a given time to keep up with the world, undertake research, and create will necessarily become obsolete over time: “I built Varagnes for twenty years, the time to die. I hope that immediately afterward, you will tear down these walls of bad mortar to have the joy of rebuilding.”

Augustin and his children would prove him wrong, at least for a while: they would adapt Varagnes to pursue new projets, equip it with new instruments (notably in optics, acoustics, and mechanics), create a space for electrical experiments next to the chemistry workshop, develop geological, artistic, cinematographic, and educational activities, etc.

The different rooms of this building contain the tools of Seguin’s creative approach: library, physics room, artist’s workshop, test room, “classroom”, observatory, mechanical workshop, chemistry laboratory, forge, where one finds books, magazines, archives, scientific and artistic instruments, rocks and minerals, paintings, sculptures, etc.

Inventors, artists, entrepreneurs crossed paths there to implement their talents. It is almost impossible to list the fields that have been addressed: electricity, heat, optics, photography, acoustics, astronomy, cinema, painting, sculpture, theater, poetry, etc. A unique place with a special atmosphere where it was good to live and work.

The main objective is to have a “practical” place. The building is more modest than the others. The doors and windows are smaller. No place for leisure. It is a functional place where the furniture, fittings, and decoration have a direct link with the creative approaches. They are there to make them effective, as in a laboratory. So no superfluous decoration, the furniture is modest. Priority to observation, research, creation, and transmission. Note that Seguin here cares as little for access ways (stairs, corridors), corners, and nooks, good for storing equipment (they are legion).

And yet a certain charm, an atmosphere emanates from this building. Simplicity sometimes translates into charm when accompanied by harmony with the other buildings. The layout of the buildings and the color of the lime contribute to the pleasant atmosphere of the north courtyard and the charm of the chicken yard brings a feeling of serenity. The observatory “sanctifies” it. Influence of the Abbey of Fontenay?

No one disputes either the inspiring nature of the interior of the place. This is undoubtedly due to the destination of the place but also to the presence “effectively” decorative, “effectively” inspiring, of works of art, equipment, technical drawings, plans made by family members, or books and scientific instruments used for research needs or the intellectual enrichment of the users of the place.

This place is unique for the simple reason that, considered at the moment of its conception and construction, it is designed to meet the needs of a “practitioner” in the last part of  of his career and whose field of action and experience are unique. The functional objective of the place is to aid in creation and in transmission.

Seguin is not the only precursor of the industrial revolution in France, nor is he the best scientist of his time, but to our knowledge, there are no other innovators or scientists who intervened at that time in such diverse fields, and assuming there are, none have designed at the end of their career a place that matches this experience, this field of action, and this functional objective.

Because Varagnes finds its source in the philosophy of the Enlightenment (see the chapter “Learn more about the Seguins and the role of Joseph de Montgolfier in the education of his great-nephew Marc”) and because its design is the probably unique fruit of an approach that remains modern and whose scope covers all fields of creativity (science, innovation, and art) and transmission, we would conclude that this place is exceptional, timeless and universal.

Necessary Arrangements

Varagnes will be arranged to respond to its new mission.

The buildings and the collections of Varagnes will be used  to build and organize  mediations, residences and and other events designed to show the richness of the creative approach of the Seguins, and to convince our visitors of the interest in creating and the importance of art, science, and societal vision in doing so.

The greenhouse and chapel will be used for meetings, symposiums, exhibitions, and other events.

The first floor of the outbuildings, where the library, artist’s workshop, instrument room, and “classroom” are located, will be be left intact and mainly dedicated to research and project maturation. In addition, rooms will be created to accommodate people in residence.

On the ground floor which was used essentially for storing purposes, meeting rooms and an “immersive” room will be created

The current “shed” will become a large room dedicated to reception.