Sébastien Arnaux, the director of the site, wants to make the famous monument an essential place in the department all year round.
After the economic stabilization of the public establishment, what are the new stages for the future of the Pont du Gard today?
The development of the site is twenty years old, it is now necessary to plan for the next twenty years. Today we have found our cruising speed in economic and tourism matters, we now have to work on territorial roots, the re-appropriation of the monument by the public, whether Gardois or not, and the role of the public institution in a social project.
Christophe Gal, in support
On March 1, Christophe Gal was appointed Deputy Director of EPCC Pont-du-Gard, replacing Rémi Nicolas. “Christophe joins me in the internal service missions and especially in the phase of mutation that we are about to enter, underlines Sébastien Arnaux, the site’s general manager. His knowledge of management and his technical expertise are a great support to me.”
Christophe Gal returned to the departmental council in 2001, first serving as a technical adviser in President Damien Alary’s cabinet, before becoming deputy director in charge of regional planning, economics and roads. He was appointed chief of staff in 2009, a position he held until 2011 before joining the administration and the position of deputy director general of services.
What do you mean by the re-appropriation of the monument by the public?
We always talk about the Romans who built the monument, but more than 2000 years have passed between them and us, so I want to highlight the people who lived around the bridge for twenty centuries. How we connect their lives and their stories! This is how the sense of belonging, which seems essential to me, will be born!
Is there some way to want to put the Pont du Gard back in the center of the area?
Usually, visitors who have come to the bridge several times have more or less personal memories of the site. Some have an almost carnal relationship. From there it seems important to me to work on the idea of belonging to a monument, to a territory … to values!
The contribution of the precious sesame from UNESCO
The Pont du Gard Public Cultural Cooperation Institution (EPCC) has finally adopted a UNESCO World Heritage Management Plan. The writing of these more than 300-page cobblestones meets the urgent request of the Ministry of Culture and the UN institution. Without this document, the monument, which will celebrate the 40th anniversary of its registration as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2025, could have lost this prestigious label.
The drafting of this official contract linking the site manager with both the state and the UNESCO organization represents a real scientific and cultural project for the enhancement of the heritage for years to come. “First of all, it is a guarantee for the preservation of the monument and its surroundings”, summarizes the director of the EPCC, Sébastien Arnaux. “We make agreements about the explanation and knowledge of the monument.”
The ancient Roman relic is one of 1,120 natural and cultural sites around the world (45 in France) to be proud of the UNESCO award. “This coveted appellation means that this place has an exceptional universal value,” emphasizes Sébastien Arnaux.
“From the guarantee of maintaining this international recognition, we are building a political project in the noblest sense of the word. I would be tempted to say that this title is anything but a tourist tool. When the city of Nîmes talks about the Unesco label, we have the impression that it is to attract tourists and make businesses work. For our part, we want to make this sesame shine in our choices. That’s why we talk about youth, the environment, the relationship with others. This is why we work with the talking around the world without forgetting to keep our feet anchored in the reality of the area with the locals who are there every day.”
Are you targeting a specific category of visitors for this?
Everyone comes to the Pont du Gard for different reasons and I am very happy about that. But it still seems important to me to think about the youngest who will live, explore and even transform the world of tomorrow. To them I want to give them the tools when they are on the site to envision this future. However, if the young are our priority, we must not forget the parents, the grandparents, because there must be and remain an intergenerational continuity.
What place do you give to the environment?
The relationship with the planet has become a universal topic that we need to understand. We must encourage individuals to question the climate transition, the protection of biodiversity… this must be done first around the monument and then through exhibitions and conferences. It seems essential to us that children, teenagers and students have free access to the Bridge and to the mediation rooms.
What changes will be made to the site?
We are going to rethink the museum, the cinema and the places where the public is welcome. The project also includes the quarries and their upcoming reopening to the public. We should also think about the right bank in a playful and festive way, without forgetting business tourism, which must become more important in order not to depend on mass tourism.
What is the budget for this renovation project?
An investment envelope of just over €10 million over a five-year period has been approved by the Board of Directors.
● ABOUT THE THEME OF LOVE
Until September 30, the Pont du Gard will host a traveling exhibition called De l’amour, designed by Universcience – Palais de la Découverte in Paris, exploring areas of love in constant motion and traversed by new technologies. This exhibition is experienced as an experience, with participatory games, multimedia and spectacular installations.
In addition, it should be noted that some of the elements presented were specially designed for the Gard site, which has been wearing the colors of love for several weeks. On May 22, the Praticable company presents a love walk with two actors and a saxophonist.
Both funny and poetic, this show visit will offer to travel around love texts and evoke this feeling thanks to the talent and the jokes of the performers. (Information on the site www.pontdugard.fr).
● ROÉ CONNECTS THE PORTRAIT
Roé, the singer and musician from Nîmes, author of the famous Soledad, among others, chose photography as a new means of expression. Thus, from June 3 until autumn, on the left bank of the bridge, the artist will present an exhibition called The smiles of the Bridge, which will bring together almost 80 portraits of the staff working on the site. An original way to highlight the diversity of professions and people who bring the Roman monument to life on a daily basis.
● THE G’ART BRIDGE
From June 23 to 27, nearly 1,500 primary and college students in the Gard will exhibit their work in the central shopping center on the left bank – drawings, collages, photos, installations… – created around the Territories theme on the menu. Thus, every evening, during the five days of the exhibition, the students’ work is projected onto the bridge as soon as night falls.