Esch2022 showcases culture as well as other attractions! The programming of the Esch-European Capital of Culture also shines a spotlight on architecture. With this idea in mind, the concept of the Minett Trail was born... a hiking’s trail that links the iconic locations in the south of the country. But the cherry on the ambling cake is the 11 magnificent lodges built along this trail which document the history of the region's industrial past.
11 municipalities - 11 lodges
Without a doubt, the best way to discover the beauty or local heritage of a region is on foot. The Minett Trail runs through a rich landscape, where former industrial sites are nestled within the region's unspoilt nature reserves. The path meanders through 70 kilometres of nature and traverses 11 municipalities in the south of Luxembourg which are taking part in the Esch European Capital of Culture 2022.
But what makes this trail even more exceptional are the 11 lodges situated in each municipality along the trail. These lodges are brimming with originality and creativity as evidenced by the construction material, their layout or location. For example, there's a floating lodge on a water basin close to the water tower in Dudelange, pop-up mobile lodges in Esch-sur-Alzette, a lodge inside a former water basin in Schifflange and an old railway carriage for travellers at the Fonds-de-Gras in Pétange.
The hike, from lodge to lodge, allows visitors to learn more about the southern region in a unique and intriguing way. It connects several open-cast iron-ore mines such as "Prënzebierg – Giele Botter", the Fond-de-Gras, and the "Haard-Hesselsbierg-Staebierg" a nature reserve in Dudelange, as well as the new urban district in Belval, and several city centres, forests, and even other areas that tell the story of the region's industrial past.
The selection process for these lodges was a long process and lasted almost two years. The project is also part of a sustainable development strategy. As part of this narrative between accommodation and tourism, the construction of these lodges had to meet environmental criteria. They were either to be housed in existing structures or had to be new constructions.
The Minett Trail, which documents the history of the Minett, and in particular its industrial past, is the result of a competition launched as part of Esch2022 and the project by "Minett UNESCO Biosphere" , Pro-Sud and the Order of architects and consulting engineers (OAI).
Choose your lodge
The 11 lodges, designed by 11 different architects, are located on the Minett Trail, which passes through the municipalities of the Pro Sud cooperative. By seeking out the accommodation along the Minett Trail, you can immerse yourself in this magnificent natural landscape.
A former railway carriage converted into accommodation
Did you always dream of spending a night on a train, like a true adventurer? Then climb abroad this former passenger carriage first commissioned in 1939 named after its manufacturer, Lilpop, and enjoy an unforgettable experience! It was converted by ARBED (a Luxembourg steel group founded in 1911 that has since become ArcelorMittal, editor's note) into a cinema carriage to be used as a projection and training room for industrial workers of yesteryear; it is now used as accommodation for tourists.
Nestled in a green landscape that blends in perfectly with its tranquil and unspoiled environment on the exceptional Minett Trail in Fonds-de-Gras, this historic railway carriage is being completely refurbished by architect Lis Teisen. Her practice, Teisen-Giesler, was chosen in a competition organised by the OAI (Order of architects and consulting engineers) and the Pro-Sud cooperative to create a hiking lodge out of a disused railway car from the 1940s which is located on the tracks at Fonds-de-Gras.
The shell of the future carriage-lodge will retain its metal framework, says the architect, while the interior will be covered in wood from floor to ceiling. The architect admits having a great weakness for this natural material. In the main area, called "Convivialité", there is a large table where people can sit together for meals, discussions and entertainment, as well as a set of benches with storage, a table and sofas. This area, which is literally the centrepiece of the railway carriage, covers a total of over 20 square metres, and includes a kitchenette.
In the adjacent room, there is a shower room with a sink and a separate toilet. In the "Repos" compartment on the architect's plan, guests will find three rooms with two bunk beds and luggage drawers under the beds. The architect has done her utmost to retain all the charm of the old-fashioned railway car. The interior combines traditional and modern features, the two areas at the extremities of the carriage undoubtedly create a great deal of excitement among visitors: a sauna with a view of the wooded slope and a pergola serving a sheltered terrace makes this accommodation the ideal place to relax after a long walk in the Land of the Red Rocks.
"An unusual project is a massive challenge for an architect".
Interview with Lisi Teisen, architect of the lodge at the Fonds-de-Gras in Pétange.
Architect Lisi Teisen is no stranger to showcasing her creative magic as part of the year of culture. For the 2007 year of culture, Teisen-Giesler Architects was commissioned to redesign the interior of one of the Roundhouses (Rotondes) as a headquarters. She is looking forward to visiting this old railway carriage which she will transform into accommodation for tourists with the artist Justine Blau.
1. Why did you decide to participate in this competition?
The OAI (Order of architects and consulting engineers) issued a call for applications to all its member architectural practices. The competition was launched at the start of November 2019. The objective was to offer unusual architectural accommodation in each of the 11 Pro Sud member municipalities and to tell the story of the Minette region. In total, 91 architects responded to the call for applications. In the end, one winner was selected per project. We were fortunate enough to be awarded the Fonds-de-Gras site in Pétange and we are currently in the process of completely refurbishing an old 1940s passenger carriage into tourist accommodation.
2. What makes your project unique?
Unusual projects always represent a major challenge for an architect. In this case, the challenge was even greater, as we were given a specific deadline and a strict budget, and the instruction to install six beds into a very tight space. It was not an easy task from the start. It was a challenge trying to transform a carriage in such a way to ensure that it is functional and cosy for tourists. One thing is sure - this is no ordinary construction project, especially when you envisage cutting the metal shell of the carriage! But I have no doubts that the final outcome will be magnificent and will enrich Luxembourg's cultural and local tourism offering.
3. What do you expect from Esch22 in general?
We are very excited to be part of Esch2022. This project allows visitors to discover the Land of the Rock Rocks as well as the diversity of nature along the trail. The transformation of industrial sites and the regeneration of old warehouses for cultural events are the most visible factors and social drivers. But it is also important to point out that the Esch2022 project is aimed at the average citizen. It is all about making everyday culture accessible to visitors. The REMIX of all forms of culture offers something to suit all tastes. Furthermore, Esch 2022 shines a spotlight on the south of the country and enriches the cultural landscape of the region.
'Unusual projects always represent a major challenge for an architect.'
Lisi Teisen, architect
4. What does the Esch 2022 year of culture mean to you?
Each cultural year has its own values, its own raison d'être. A year of culture is always an enriching experience for the people and the region. However, a year of culture should only be the beginning, i.e. a basis on which to build over the subsequent years. Take the example of the 11 lodges, which we are currently developing. For one year, these structures should form the basis of what should become a sustainable and integrative project over the long term. In the past, during other years of culture, the projects often unravelled quickly. Today, towns and villages must receive support and be united if the project is to survive beyond 2023.
5. Is the concept of a European Year of Culture still relevant? Is such an event the right way to foster culture?
We must move away from trying to impress people with large-scale projects, just for the sake of it. For example, when I was a teenager, I was actively involved in organising cultural events such as major concerts with Pavarotti and Rolling Stones. I believe the creative, participatory and collective aspect should be strengthened. We need to dig a little deeper in order to ensure that people can benefit more from the creation of structures and networks. Also, we first need to develop the local and regional level, and then the international scope.
The Teisen-Giesler architectural practice was created in 2003 and works in the public sector (schools, offices, urban planning, theatres and heritage) as well as in the private sector (new residential and single-family housing, passive houses, renovations and interior design). The practice is composed of a young team of multi-national architects and currently has 11 employees.