University of Tübingen with pebble mosaic

You can find them in Germany, those large mosaic projects. Those that bring together owners and architects with mosaic installers and create something beautiful that lasts. In the case of the pebble mosaic in Tübingen this beauty is even poetry. The new building for Molecular Biology and the existing buildings on the campus since August 2012 are connected by a pebble mosaic path showing a poem by Charles Baudelaire from the “Fleurs du Mal” – shows “Flowers of Evil”. The words of Baudelaire’s “La Rancon” – “The Ransom” make their way across the campus. 150 meters of white Carrara Maromor letters contrast with the black basalt of the background.

In a place where bioinformaticians, chemists and pharmacists work together, the content of the poem gets particularly explosive. It reminds people that only a conscious, responsible handling of nature in the long run will lead to good harvests.

The idea for the project came from the stage and costume designer Ilona Lenk. She was awarded the contract as part of a competition. At the construction site Ilona and her husband Valerio Pizzorno also tackled themselves. Side by side with experienced mosaic installers. One of them was Luciano Bonzini from Liguria, the region around Genoa, which is known for the stone-laying technology. In Ligurian dialect the technique is called “Rissëu” and is the oldest form of mosaic at all. Before he discovered his passion for pebble mosaics, Luciano worked 10 years as a marble and tile. Meanwhile, he has performed many commissions and restorations. In his Laboratorio Musivarius in Genoa, he passes on his knowledge. “There are not many people who master this technique really well,” he says. “I attach great importance to keep the skills alive, because only then can the craft continue to exist.”

With the Rissëu technique long stones are placed vertically in a mixture of sand, lime and cement and pressed with a rubber hammer. Then, the joints are filled with material and the mosaic gets well watered. After that it acquires a strength and durability, which lasts thousands of years. And a patina that tells stories.

Design, organisation, workmanship support: Ilona Lenk
Workmanship: Moreno Altafin, Luciano Bonzini (Laboratorio Musivarius), Giuseppe Donnaloia (CaCO3), Valerio Pizzorno, Luca Riggio (Laboratorio San Luca di Genova)[/box]

La Rançon

L’homme a, pour payer sa rançon,
Deux champs au tuf profond et riche,
Qu’il faut qu’il remue et défriche
Avec le fer de la raison;

Pour obtenir la moindre rose,
Pour extorquer quelques épis,
Des pleurs salés de son front gris
Sans cesse il faut qu’il les arrose.

L’un est l’Art, et l’autre l’Amour.
— Pour rendre le juge propice,
Lorsque de la stricte justice
Paraîtra le terrible jour,

Il faudra lui montrer des granges
Pleines de moissons, et des fleurs
Dont les formes et les couleurs
Gagnent le suffrage des Anges.

The Ransom

Man, for his ransom, has two fields,
Two fields of tufa, deep and rich,
Which he must duly delve and ditch.
His reason is the hoe he wields.

In order to extort one rose,
Or to produce a few poor cars,
He has to squander showers of tears
In watering the seeds he sows.

One field is Art, the other Love;
And both must for his favour bloom
When the strict judge appears above
Upon the dreadful day of doom.

Man’s granges must be filled to burst
With crops and flowers, whose form and shade
Must win the angels’ suffrage first
Before his ransom can be paid.

— Roy Campbell, Poems of Baudelaire (New York: Pantheon Books, 1952)

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