26 rue des Rasses, Sainte-Croix, Vaud

This building is on the Rue des Rasses, in Sainte-Croix, Vaud, Switzerland. For maps, see end of this article.

26 rue des Rasses, Sainte Croix, Vaud. Front entrance. 20 October 2021 in Sketchbook 11

There is much that is interesting about this building: there is the building itself, a 1930s marvel, there are the original occupiers, and there are the current occupiers.

The building was constructed in 1929-1930 as a factory for Reuge, the music-box makers. Reuge had already been operating for some 55 years by that time, starting with a pocket-watch shop in 1865. The factory operated for 85 years, until 2015, then they moved production to another site. Here is a picture of the factory fully operational, from a Reuge publication dated 2007 1

In June 2016, Reuge still owned the building, even though they’d moved their production out. They still used the wood-panelled showroom to demonstrate their music boxes. Here are some pictures from when I visited the empty building at that time:

Since around November 20193 the building has been occupied by a group called “le Baz”. They are a self-governing collective, who have created a “ZàB” in the former Reuge building. “ZàB”, their website2 explains, stands for “Zone libre à Bâtir”:

C’est une zone autogérée d’expérimentation, d’émancipation, de solidarité et de lutte, et pas un espace de consommation passive. Elle est ouverte à toutes et tous à toute heure décente. Et ce pour souffler, partager, apprendre ou transmettre de manière spontanée. Toute personne présente devrait pouvoir répondre à vos questionnements concernant le fonctionnement. Tout comme vous, elles ne sont ni responsables, ni programmateurices, ni animateurices, mais ni plus ni moins que les acteurices d’une création collective.

It is a self-organised space for experiment, emancipation, solidarity and struggle, and not a place for passive consumption. It is open to everybody, at any reasonable time. It’s where you can breath, share, learn or communicate at will. All the people here should be able to answer your questions about how it works. Just like you, they are not the managers, nor the schedulers, nor the facilitators, but no more and no less than the participants in a collaborative creation.

[My translation]

I took them at their word, and showed up at an “heure décent”, which as it happened was about midday. As I hesitated in front of the door, a young man asked if he could help me. I said yes, would it be possible to go in? He said yes of course, had I not read the notice on the door? I said I had. But he was already about his business, rushing ahead of me, and had left the door open. So I went in.

I walked around the empty spaces. It was all clean and organised. Someone had recently been working on the wall murals: there was a smell of paint. There are huge areas of blank wall and vast empty rooms. There is a “magasin gratuit” where you are invited to take what you need or bring goods to donate. A handwritten notice explains how it works.

I didn’t meet anybody.

On the way out, I did meet someone. This was a young woman, who smiled and asked if I was visiting: “Vous faites le tour?” I said yes I was. She recognised me, because she’d seen me drawing, three days previously. We chatted for a bit. She explained some of the history. The town had been opposed to their use of the site. Some people thought we were squatters, she said: “ils pensent qu’on fait le squatte”. But no, she said, we are not squatters. In principle, “no-one sleeps here the night”. And they have the permission of the owner. Well, they had the permission of the owner. But things have changed…. so the situation now is, well, “un peu ambigue”, a bit ambiguous.

She smiled. She liked it there. She said that it was surprising how little one needed, just “les un ou deux trucs” a few things needed for existence.

“And friends,” I suggested.

“Yes,” she agreed, “and friends.” She told me her name and asked me mine. “Come back,” she said, “any time. Boir un café.” And she set off down the slope, towards a young man waiting patiently below, by the collection of wooden outhouses.

Here is the picture I had been drawing when I first met the woman.

26 rue des Rasses, rear entrance (view from the South). 17th October 2021, 4pm. In Sketchbook 11

In this view you can see evidence of the current occupiers. They have built a fence, made of wooden pallets, on top of a concrete platform which is part of the original building. On the concrete wall are inscriptions in a flowing calligraphic script I did not recognise, and a large symbol in a roundel.

Here are some external views and work in progress on the drawings:

Here are maps:

References:

  1. Reuge, the Art of Mechanical Music, Secrets of the Reuge Manufacture, published by Reuge in 2007. Picture of the factory in the snow is from the frontispiece.
  2. Website describing Le Baz, and the Zone libre à Bâtir: https://pantographe.info/ downloaded 22 Oct 2021
  3. The local newspaper <<24 heures>> carries articles about how the current occupiers took over the buildings and disputes between the current occupiers and local residents. See for example the article by Frédéric Ravussin, 22.11.2019, 06h51. These newspapers are available on the marvellous digital resource: Scriptorium from the University of Lausanne.

Sketching in York

Here is the “Micklegate Bar”, which is one of the great gates through the old City wall into the centre of York.

Micklegate Bar, York, 7th October 2021, 3pm. 7″x10″ in Sketchbook 10

I sketched this outside a bar called “Micklegate Social”. The staff were inside, cleaning and setting up. They very kindly lent me a chair!

The city wall goes off to left and right. I put a two people in, to give you an idea of the scale. They are high up, level with the lowest windows.

“Micklegate” is the name of a street which heads North from the gate. Later on I had breakfast at “Partisan”, a café just up from Micklegate Bar. Recommended!

Quick sketch at “Partisan”, Micklegate, York, ink and coffee. 6″ x 4″ in a small sketchbook made by Heather Dewick.

Outside the wall, to the North West, is the park surrounding the York Museum. I made a picture of the ruins of St Mary’s Abbey.

St Mary’s Abbey, York. 7th October 2021 2pm. 1hr 10mins, 10″ x 7″ in Sketchbook 10

The original church on the site was founded in 1055. In 1089, William Rufus, third son of William the Conqueror, laid the foundation stone for the Norman Church dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It was an abbey for the Benedictine monastery on this site. 450 years later the monastery was closed, in 1539, under Henry VIII.

The current ruins are 750 years old. They date from a rebuilding in 1271.

123 Cheapside, EC2

In “A London Inheritance” I read a fascinating article about this corner of Cheapside and Wood Street, near St Paul’s Cathedral. When I passed the corner last week I noticed that the shop had closed down. Fearing that this closure would presage demolition of this interesting building, and replacement with a 39-story office block, I rushed to draw the corner shop while I could. It was raining. But I could find a bit of shelter under the glass canopy of M&S in One New Change opposite.

123 Cheapside, from across the road. 2nd October 2021, 10″ x 7″ in Sketchbook 10

This is a very ancient row of shops. The shop on the corner was, from before 1908 and until at least 1986, L.R. Wooderson Shirtmakers. In recent years it has been “Cards Galore”, but is now closed and the windows are obscured with brown paper.

The corner shop is a wonderful little building. I especially admire the curved glass of the two windows either side of the door, which seem to invite you in. Curved glass windows are rare, especially at street level, so these deserve recognition and admiration. Even more amazing is the mirror on the ceiling! If you step between the curved glass windows and look up, you see that this entrance space is reflected in a mirror. Perhaps this was a device so that if needed, you could see your newly purchased shirt or hat from above?

L.R. Wooderson is shown in a London Metropolitan Archives photo from 1908 (below).
The author of “A London Inheritance” photographed it 78 years later, in 1986. In his 1986 photo, the notice on the side of the shop says “Est 1884”. He has further information about L.R. Wooderson and the Wooderson family on his blog entry, and there’s yet more information in the comments on his article.

Here’s the photo from 1908:

123 and 124 Cheapside, 1908
LCC Photograph Library image © London Metropolitan Archives (City of London)
Record number 38726 Catalogue number: SC_PHL_01_006_79_7728
Accession number: 0577c . Used with permission.

Here’s the same row of shops circa 1870, showing a predecessor of L.R. Wooderson.: Joseph Williams, seller of “pianofortes”, with a warehouse in Berners Street in the West End.

View of shops and figures on Cheapside, also shows the corner of Wood Street, c1870
by WH Prior image © London Metropolitan Archives (City of London)
Record Number: 1884 Catalogue number:q2824343. Used with permission.

You see that “F. Passmore Stationer and Printer”, describes itself as “under the tree” – see the notice high up on a hoarding. This huge plane tree is famous, and at that time clearly famous enough to help in locating the shop. The commentary on the 1908 photo (above) in the London Picture Archive says:

124 Cheapside, City of London, by Wood Street. Front and side elevations of a two-storey shop, L & R Wooderson hosiers. In view is a street lamp. Towering above the premises is a Plane tree. The tree sits in the churchyard of St Peter Cheap. It’s thought the tree could date from the 1760s and is currently protected so can’t be cut down. The church of St Peter Cheap perished in the 1666 Great Fire and missed out on being rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren.

There is much more about the tree in an article on the “London Walking Tours Website” on this link.

I was interested to note how the tree size changes. In the 1870 drawing it is already huge. 40 years later, in the 1908 photo, it seems smaller, and more compact. I wonder if it was pollarded? Today it is again enormous. Here are the photos above again, with a modern picture to compare.

It remains famous. It is no. 1 in the “Top Ten Trees” of the City of London according to the “Friends of City Gardens”.

I completed the pen and ink of my drawing outside M&S, and then retreated from the rain and added the colour at my desk.

The colours are:

  • Perylene Maroon and Prussian Blue for the greys, with a bit of Transparent Brown Oxide in the the road,
  • Buff Titanium for the white of the shop with some Mars Yellow,
  • Green Apatite Genuine and Green Gold for the tree, and
  • a tiny bit of Transparent Pyrrol Orange for the City of London bollard tops and refections.
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