Valentiny Foundation Remerschen
© Oliver Raatz

Transforming Experiences François Valentiny, Schengen-based architect

3 minutes

“Borders have never crossed our minds!”

Destination(s): Moselle

François Valentiny, a star architect from Schengen, works all over the world — yet his home at the border tripoint has left a strong impression on him. You can spot the architectural artist’s work in many places along the Moselle. Aesthetics without borders. 

“When you build, you have to engage with the landscape: the sun, the culture and the people,” François Valentiny believes. Luxembourg’s star architect spent the first ten years of his life in Remerschen. Remerschen is part of the municipality of Schengen, which lies at the tripoint where Luxembourg, Germany and France meet. Here, at the Moselle – or to be more precise, on a boat on the Moselle – the famous Schengen Agreement was signed in 1985 against a backdrop of vineyards. Schengen has long since become a symbol of open borders in Europe.

What do borders mean to a Luxembourger from Schengen? Valentiny laughs. “We live in a small country, so you’re never far from a border. Whenever I make a phone call from my car, my mobile network constantly changes. Other than that, borders have never really fazed us. Many Moselle viniculturists have vineyards in all three countries, and there are families with different members scattered across the borders.” Nevertheless, Valentiny has a close connection with the Schengen Agreement – he designed the European Museum down by the Moselle, which is devoted to the freedom of movement agreement and open borders in Europe.

Depth and soul in Moselle sand plaster

Anyone wishing to visit the museum’s multimedia exhibition will first find themselves in front of a modest rectangular building whose entrance resembles a large window onto the world. The coarse beige plaster, which has the appearance of being dirty, is unsettling at first glance. But it’s definitely not dirt: it is local earth and heritage. Architect Valentiny virtually discovered Schengen plaster, which is created by mixing in Moselle sand. It is important to him to make traces of the past visible, by allowing the wood and the façade to weather. “In poor, rural areas, people only ever cleaned their houses – they never painted them. For me, that has much more depth and soul than a synthetic coat of paint. But of course, it also means that as early as the building’s inauguration, it didn’t look new anymore,” he says. 

Valentiny Schengen
© Oliver Raatz

“Stock up on experiences while you’re still young!”

The Luxembourger’s often sculptural designs can be discovered at the light, open Valentiny Foundation. Valentiny realises: “I sometimes design a building and only notice afterwards that I actually sketched it 20 years ago, almost identically.” Isn’t that uncanny?

François Valentiny believes that you must “stock up on experiences”, and with ideas and creativity in your youth. In his view, all you then need to do when you’re older is organise them and bring them to fruition, let your life experiences come flowing in. This is exactly what happened to Valentiny: “The vineyard landscapes, the Moselle, the artisans who made everything by hand – all of that had a big impression on me. My reference points have never changed. Although I’ve developed a new design vocabulary in the intervening years, it is all strongly influenced by what I experienced and saw here in Luxembourg when I was young.”

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Being aware of borders and going beyond them

François Valentiny places great importance on the influences brought to his home country by Luxembourgers who have returned after spending time abroad. “That is our intellectual wealth – primarily young people going elsewhere to study or see the world. Then they come home with totally new experiences and can build on what they learned here as children and young adults.” For Valentiny, who grew up along the Moselle, this includes humble craftspeople and vintners, as well as constantly pushing past borders – both the real ones out there and those in your mind.

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Biodiversum Remerschen Moselle
© Uli Fielitz

Valentiny’s works along the Moselle

Destination(s): Moselle

The models, sketches and pictures on display at the Valentiny Foundation in his home town of Remerschen provide a vivid view of the star architect’s life and work. A constantly revolving roster of other artists also exhibit there.