Post by kerouac2 on May 8, 2019 14:05:58 GMT
Before I show you anything, it helps to know a bit about Roubaix, which is a well known city to the French and almost certainly the Belgians. Lille, Roubaix and Tourcoing have all fused into one metropolitan area of 1.1 million people with the official name of the European Metropole of Lille. It has in fact spread across the border, too (84 km of city border with Belgium) into an additional entity known as the Eurometropole of Lille-Kortrijk-Tournai (pop. 2 million), and the entire greater metropolitan area has a population of 3.8 million. That all sounds quite impressive, but Roubaix is the poorest city in France with 46% of the population living below the poverty line.
In the 1950's, it was one of the richest regions of France and the heart of the textile, mining and steel industries. Naturally, one of the reasons that they were rich was because they were so good at exploiting the poor (read Zola's Germinal for more about that or you can even just watch the movie). But starting in the 70's and continuing to the end of the century, all three industries collapsed in France and all of the factories and mines in the region of Lille closed. It is the French version of the American Rust Belt.
Lille and Roubaix just refuse to give up. Not so sure about Tourcoing. One thing about France -- culture and education are considered to be the solution to everything, much more so than such things as hard work, religion or social activities. The French figure that with enough culture and education, all of the rest will sort itself out.
Anyway, back to the matter at hand. In the mid-19th century, Roubaix created a textile museum since that was the main interest of the city, but they also collected art objects, mostly taken from the church as well as receiving some donations for the wealthy residents of the city. It was already declared a national museum when it was inaugurated in 1889. But at the beginning of the 20th century, it was basically a one man operation and when he (Victor Champier) died in 1929, nobody took care of the place. It closed in 1940 for the war and never reopened. In 1959, the government took away its "national" status and the collections were dispersed. There was also a small municipal museum in Roubaix, but it closed in turn in 1981.
Okay, that's more than enough depressing history, but things turned around on the cultural front in the 1990's when the city became determined to have a museum again. There was a spectacular old municipal bathhouse & swimming pool dating from 1932 and which had closed in 1985. Oh those quirky French who love to recycle buildings -- perfect place for a museum. And so La Piscine opened in 2001. I had not been there since that year, so I was long overdue to go back and see it again.
First I had to take a long long metro ride. The Lille metro actually goes all the way to the Belgian border. It was the first 100% automated (driverless) subway system in France.
And then I was in Roubaix. As you can see, just about everything is closed downtown in spite of the excellent architecture.
I didn't have a map and had decided to rely on any signage that I might find. This turned out to be extremely simple.
There was a little "Eldorado" creature to help me find it. No, it is not that building -- that's the national school of the textile industry.
La Piscine was on the other side of the street.