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Art Deco in the town centre of Lens.
© Jean-Michel André

Lens

Capital of the coal mining country, Lens and its eventful history are likely to arouse strong emotions.

The mining basin and its precious resource were a major strategic and economic stake in the two wars that shook Europe and the world during the twentieth century. If in peacetime coal was the “bread of industry”, during wartime it was critical. In the aftermath of the First World War, Lens was wiped off the map: of the city’s 8,000 dwellings, only 33 remained standing in November 1918. Everything had to be rebuilt, from housing to mining infrastructure. As elsewhere in the region, the bold reconstruction adopted an innovative style: Art Deco.

In the historic centre, look up to see the bas-reliefs, carved stones, mosaics, bow windows and other ironworks so typical of the Art-Deco style. Stop in front of Lens railway station and take a guess as to what the architect was inspired by in his design.

Finally, the Art-Deco Central Office buildings of the powerful Lens Mining Company are well worth a visit. Designed by the architect Louis-Marie Cordonnier, the building was regional in style while skilfully integrating elements of Art Deco. Inside the building, too, from the light fixtures designed by Daum, to the woodwork and furniture by Majorelle, the ironwork and the marble fireplaces, are the epitomes of refinement. This castle of industry is magnified by the presence of a formal garden designed by the landscape gardener Achille Duchêne. A must-see!

The Lens Mining Company Central Office in Lens. A true mark of the power exerted over a region and its men, with its majestic facades and formal gardens. The directors commissioned renowned Art Deco designers, including Marjorelle and Daum, to furnish and decorate the building’s interior. – Photograph by Jean-Michel André
The Lens Mining Company Central Office in Lens. A true mark of the power exerted over a region and its men, with its majestic facades and formal gardens. The directors commissioned renowned Art Deco designers, including Marjorelle and Daum, to furnish and decorate the building’s interior. – Photograph by Jean-Michel André

Many World Heritage sites are temporarily closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Please check official websites for more information.

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Lens