March 10, 2023

Alain and Nicole Moumen, Jardins Secrets / Secret gardens

images are screenshots of the video in the documentation

The Jardins Secrets ornamental flower garden, which can be visited by the public in the summer months, has such peculiar built structures and decorations, that from the point of view of art environments it can be classified as a singular architecture.
These aspects in particular are described in more detail in the following post.

tower-like and iron wire constructions on a roof

Life and works

The garden, located in the hamlet Lagnat in the Haute-Savoie department in France, is a creation of Alain and Nicole MoumenAlain was born in the early 1940s in Tunisia,  where he trained as a teacher, Nicole was born in Morocco and studied psychology in Grenoble, Switzerland.

They met in the Savoie region of France, married, and between 1966 and 1968 had three daughters, Leïla, Myriam and Sonia, who would father eight grandchildren.

more wire decorations

Alain and Simone were a creative couple. In 1969 they founded a company called Le chant des Fleurs (The song of the flowers), which focused on the production of furniture, although neither had any relevant training in this field. Alain designed and manufactured the furniture and Nicole decorated it colorfully.

In 1980 they bought an old farm in the hamlet of Lagnat, just outside Vaulx, a commune in the Haute-Savoie, a beautiful tourist region bordering Switzerland. Here they could live and establish their furniture workshop and storage place. But here they could also offer their teenage daughters a creative, cozy place to live.

floor tiles
more tile work

The farm, with 7000 m2 of land and a beautiful old chestnut tree, was rather neglected and Alain and Nicole had to spend a lot of time refurbishing the accommodation, this in addition to the work for their furniture company.

The renovation of the building was not done with the idea of creating an ornamental garden that could be visited by the public. Alain only got that idea on a winter day, after the renovation was well advanced.

more towers and constructions of iron wire

Creating the "Jardins Secrets".

The ornamental garden was opened to the public in 1994.

Located on a bend in a rural road, hidden behind a large wall, the site of the Secret Gardens is a well-kept secret, consisting of a varied collection of flowers and plants spread across multiple locations, each with a different atmosphere and surrounded by a variety of built structures, all with a specific architecture.

For the construction of the various structures and decorative elements, wood materials such as sequoia, cedar and larchwood were used extensively, but also recycled materials such as wire iron, copper rods and pieces of glass.

the old chestnut tree in the middle of the decorations

The atmosphere evoked by the architecture is not typically French, but is rather reminiscent of the style of architecture in Tibet or in Mediterranean countries in North Africa such as Tunisia or Morocco, but even more so of the Moorish style of Andalusia, Spain, with buildings such as the Alhambra or the Mosque of Córdoba

In the Jardins Secrets, the influence of Moorish architecture is reflected in the many columns, connected at the top and arranged in long rows, as in the very first image and the one above. One of the separate  parts of the Jardins Secrets is indeed the Jardin Andalou, which refers to the Alhambra.

In France there is one art environment with connected columns, the garden of Rosa Mir in Lyon, built by Jules Senis (1913-1983), a tiler and bricklayer from Spain, who moved to France to escape the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).

towers galore

Another specific characteristic of the architecture of the Jardins Secrets is the way the roofs are decorated.

In the image above, the roof is equipped with a large number of small wooden towers and also a series of circular creations, made of iron wire. Such an arrangement can also be seen in the image below.

The turrets on the roofs have the special feature that birds like to stay there, just as bats find their home in the wooden galleries.

another view of a decorated roof

On the ground floor is the collection of flowers and plants, a sumptuous whole, mainly of local varieties appropriate to the climate of Haute-Savoie. grouped in several separate presentations, 

As the image below left shows, a presentation, such as this one in a courtyard, can be surrounded by small tower-like structures.

The bottom right image shows a presentation of flowers and plants around a decorated square stone structure, with a stone block in the center. It also shows part of the paving of the paths between the presentations, mainly made of pebbles, worked according to a classical Roman technique.

an inner court
a floor with pebbles

The creation of Alain and Nicole Moumen also includes several ponds and a large number of fountains, eight of which bear the name of the couple's grandchildren. The water of the ponds and fountains comes from a reservoir that is filled through the many gutters that collect the rainwater.

There is also a swimming pool on the site, created by Moumen in honor of his daughters who helped to manufacture various elements of the site in their younger days.

The Jardins Secrets includes a total of twenty interior and exterior spaces, which in the post could only be partly shown in the images.

Alain Moumen is now (2023) in his early 80s and his wife Nicole will be about the same age. They have handed over the day-to-day management of the garden to their daughter Myriam. 

Nicole Moumen is currently writing a book in which she describes her experiences with the construction of the ornamental garden. The book La vie en fleur (Living with Flowers) will be published in spring 2023.

* Website of the Jardins Secrets
Facebook, pages of the Jardins Secrets
* Article (September 2020) by Céline Péters on Linkedin
* Tripadvisor with almost 700 photos of the site

Video (2016, YouTube13'25") by JPP Keyser

Alain and Nicole Moumen
Jardins Secrets
1561 Route de Lagnat, Hameau de Lagnat, 74150 Vaulx, dept Haute-Savoie, 
region Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, France
visitors welcome (entrance fee)

No comments:

Post a Comment