The Compagnons du Devoir built a successful synergy between stone and landscaping trades

Behind the scenes of the Acoustic Shell, an atypical work realized for Paysalia and Rocalia 2019 which mingles natural stone and plants.


If you attended Paysalia 2019, you probably saw this strangely sublime construction on the Rocalia conference Forum! This unique work of art is the fruit of a titanic collective project between the Compagnons du Devoir stone masons and gardeners and landscape designers. Two separate sectors but so closely intertwined in the field! Bruno Combernoux (stone mason and Director of the French Advanced stone trades research and training institute) and Antoine Tabareau (garden and landscape designer and Director of the French Institute for nature, gardening and landscaping trades) explain.

The Acoustic Shell hosted numbers of conferences during Paysalia and Rocalia 2019
© Nicolas Rodet

From the conception of a joint project to execution 

To create a bridge between Paysalia and Rocalia trade exhibitions 2019, the Compagnons du Devoir crafted a joint project worthy of their (many) skills. Called the Acoustic Shell and the stage for all the Rocalia conferences, this atypical work mingles natural stone and plants. To understand the genesis of this project, we need to go back a year.

The Compagnons du Devoir garden-landscape designer team in front of the imposing timber structure.

The natural stone shell was shaped by Compagnons du Devoir stone masons

The challenge was to propose an event for the Rocalia and Paysalia trade exhibitions by creating an atypical work for the space. Rocalia partners the Compagnons du Devoir got together with the Bari Polytechnic School in Italy, and more particularly architect Professor Giuseppe Fallacara, designer of the Acoustic Shell, with whom they have worked for 20 years. To bring this spectacular object to life the stone masons worked from a model!

Check out the synergy project for the previous edition: the visit preparation center.

The Acoustic Shell, a work of art and a teaching tool

For the Compagnons du Devoir the interest of this project was to link several training programs in one educational tool. Throughout the design of this work, the Compagnons du Devoir involved their student gardener-landscape designers and stone masons in a full training course covering every aspect of their trades.

Stone masons students learned design, stereotomy, stone cutting and site organization and preparation. Soon-to-be landscape designers learned timber construction, graphic composition, computer-assisted freehand drawing and how to read and execute plans.

The Compagnons du Devoir at work on the wooden part of the structure

The assembly of the natural stone part before the opening of Paysalia 2019

Mutual assistance and communication between Compagnons du Devoir were the keystone of this site. For example, the Compagnon carpenter trainers instructed the Compagnon gardener-landscape design students. 

What is important in this project is communication and a good basic plan. We discussed how and what to do for over a year – the phases, priorities and chronology. We didn’t get in each other’s way because we had a well-defined plan and shared the equipment. A great strategy to show our young people how to organize a site in the short time span of a trade exhibition! — Antoine Tabareau

A good time was had by all! 

The challenges that had to be met to create the Acoustic Shell

For the Compagnons gardener-landscape design students, the basic problem was to adapt the deck to the metal structure of the "Shell" without bearing on it. Not too low so as to avoid touching the structure and propagating vibrations, and not too high so that the lecturers could get onto it! The gardener-landscape design students worked as meticulously as fully fledged carpenters, a skill they are sure to find useful to meet the demands of their future customers for timber decks, for example.

The Compagnons stone masons essentially had to understand the mechanical behavior of stone (which functions in compression) and metal (which functions in traction). Striking the right balance is never easy!

Choosing the right natural stone when creating a green space

Compagnons du Devoir training facilitates finding a job in several trades, including landscaping 

Historically, the French institution Compagnons du Devoir teach 30 trades divided into 6 sectors, ranging from building to catering and including the preservation of ancient trades like blacksmithing and barrel making. Students in the very varied landscaping sector specialize in many fields.

As Antoine Tabareau told us during Paysalia and Rocalia 2019, Compagnons du Devoir students easily find jobs! While landscaping companies are already facing a hard time to recruit new landscapers, the excellence of trade guild members guarantees that landscape designers find jobs at once.

Our student base is young people who want to become landscape designers by learning in a training program different from the others, outside the usual framework. We have many good quality apprentices sent to us when they complete their courses! But we cannot meet all the demands from companies and would like to teach landscaping trades to more young people! Antoine Tabareau

Here are some ways to attract young people into the landscaping trades!

For the stone sector, enthusiasm has grown in recent years after a rather difficult period in terms of recruitment and activity, says Bruno Combernoux. Currently, 18% of all French stone masons were trained by the Compagnons du Devoir!

We hope that access to apprenticeships will get easier soon. We realize that companies have specific needs, in works management for example. We can meet this need through sandwich courses. Our objective is to give young people the freedom to choose their future and find their place in a sector. Apprenticeships contribute to this goal. — Bruno Combernoux

It is clear that the Compagnons du Devoir have a major role to play in preparing young people who wish to become landscape designers, stone masons and qualify in many other satisfying trades. And remember that the way that all these know-hows are passed on via the trade guilds has been recognized by UNESCO as part of the world’s intangible heritage!

We are proud to have staged this beautiful project mingling natural stone and plants. This synergy, highlighting the close links between minerals and plants hallmark Paysalia and Rocalia trade exhibitions since 2017!

Consult our press release "Minerals & plants: a garden duet in close harmony"

© Photos credits: Antoine Tabareau & Bruno Combernoux


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