Surrealist Architecture: Synagogue de Delme in France

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By Diana Budds
Sculpture meets architecture in the surrealist facade of the Synagogue de Delme visitors center in northeastern France.

When Christophe Berdaguer and Marie Péjus, artists based in Paris and Marseilles, talk about their first public commission, a renovated outbuilding at the Synagogue de Delme Contemporary Art Center, located in the Lorraine region of France, it’s on a spectral level. The art center commissioned the pair to revamp its visitors center for its 20th anniversary this year. The 19th-century structure has served as a prison, school, and funeral home. Berdaguer and Péjus—who say they are "interested in ghosts who haunt the history of architecture"—used the structure’s varied past as inspiration for the white biomorphic polystyrene skin they encased around the facade and onto the surrounding lawn. "To us, a [building] is not just a mechanical construction; it’s an aggregate of emotions, perceptions, and memories," the duo says. Although the exterior is rendered in curvaceous high relief, visitors can still spy traces of the original silhouette and roofline—a decision that Berdaguer and Péjus hope will prompt visitors to contemplate the center’s 200-year history and numerous past lives.

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Surrealist Architecture: Synagogue de Delme in France - Photo 1 of 1 -

Christophe Berdaguer and Marie Péjus named their building “Gue(ho)st House” after Marcel Duchamp’s aphorism “A guest + a host = a ghost,” which appeared on a piece of ephemera he made in 1953. The duo translated the artist’s wordplay into architect-ural form, and said: “A house is a place where the hosts and guests share spaces. This project is like a third person, who in this context, looks like a ghost.”