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C

hangemois

A gothic art project

DONALD E. RUSSELL
STONE CARVER - ARTIST

www.changemois.org

The researcher in front of his work place


About the artist
Born in the U.S.A. I came to France in 1956, accompanied by my wife and two very
small children. After completing a Masters degree at the University of California at
Berkeley, my aim was to pursue a Doctorate in Paris, but, almost inadvertently, I came
to stay.

The region where Gothic architecture was initiated and developed was the le de
France. Since this was where I lived, it seemed normal that I acquire an interest in the
13th and 14th century marvels that surrounded me.
!

In 1985 I began following courses on this subject at the Sorbonne, a fascinating


hobby that continued for 15 years. By nature given to research (I was employed at
the Musum National dHistoire Naturelle in Paris for 35 years, doing research in the
paleontology of primitive mammals) I of course supplemented the Sorbonne courses
by profiting from the enormous bibliographic resources that Paris offers to increase
my knowledge.

After my retirement in 1992 I was able to devote all my time to a project to build a
small edifice in a pure 13th century style. The Gothic of this period, in my opinion,
constitutes an architecture of unrivaled beauty.
!

During 1993 I made plans and drawings for this edifice (it is called an edifice for lack
of something better: its not a house, nor a castle, nor a church). To transfer these
ideas into reality, I began carving the wonderful limestone that constitutes much of
the old, historical buildings of Paris. To do this, I hastily constructed a shelter in the
backyard of my suburban home. In 1994 I finished the stone door jambs of a first
doorway.
!

By 2007 I considered that I had carved about 80% of the stones that were necessary
for the windows and doors. My rather advanced age convinced me that it was now or
never. After a discouragingly long search I found property that was sufficiently large,
and, moreover, was situated near the house of my son, in the Morvan natural park of
Burgundy.
!

Dons
Passion

Don has been working on this project


since 1985. A long, slow
germination process was followed,
after retirement in 1992, with
designing the Edifice and then
carving stones in his backyard shed
at his home near Paris.

The sculpting
The tools

When about 80% of the stones had been carved Don set out to find a piece
of property to build on.
He finally settled on a place in Burgundy,
miraculously obtained permission to build his architectural fantasy, and went
to work. The property had a single room house that was built in the mid
-1800s, which would be convenient to live in while he worked on his project.
The adjoining field was the right size to build his 13th century Edifice on and
late in the summer of 2008 an excavator dug a 4m-deep hole for the
foundations and scooped out access roads as well.

The foundation seemed to take forever,


occupying two years, and entailing a lot of
work, which didnt really show.
Because working on the Edifice exposed
during the winter was not possible, and
since Don needed to be active the year
around in order to finish by the time he
turns 92, we had to build a large shelter
that would cover most of the worksite.
!

Since a secret tunnel between


the house and the Edifice was
desired, and since it was not
really part of the Edifice, cement
blocks and mortar were used,
permitting construction in early
spring and late fall.

An excavator dug a 60m long, 2.5mdeep ditch that became the tunnel. A
concrete base was poured and
reinforced cinder block walls erected.
An arched concrete roof, covered by a
concealing footpath, finished this
project .

In between the arch supports a reinforced plywood floor was fitted to hold
up the granite ceiling rocks. Afterwards the wooden arch supports were
mounted and the carved arch stones carefully placed with wedges to leave a
gap for the mortar.

The Potern hidden door and the


staircase in the tower

Finally, the edifice began to rise


above ground level. At the end of
2012 the wooden vault supports were
removed from most of the basement
rooms.
A valid (and rather spectacular) idea
was finally becoming a reality.
!

Work continues with the completion of the Griffon room. There are many
carved stones waiting to be assemble into the yet to be built stone walls of
the basement.

We are looking for patrons


of the arts to help finance
this project.

Contact us through
www.changemois.fr
General enquiries and
guided tours by appointment
(+33) 0606515378