Trades that Don’t Change

PHOTOS BY - ROBERTO BENZI

An experiment that is relevant from the Middle Ages up to today brings to light not only the similarities in actions, but rediscovers what working together means.

Philippe Delage (59) stonemason at Guedelon

Philippe Delage (59) stonemason at Guedelon

TEAMWORK
The central point of this project of ours is to rediscover the similarities of teamwork. For many years organizations have been searching for the perfect group activity, in order to create and maintain a close team. After-work activities, parties, team-building initiatives, these were all the ideas. At Guedelon Castle we have visited a huge instructive park for young people who are interested in discovering basic trades, those which can be learnt quickly and used to immediate effect. These are the old professions that are developed with recognizable tools: the bricklayer works with a trowel, the carpenter with a saw, the blacksmith with a hammer. Try to understand and draw the IT guy or the financial analyst!

Elio Carmi (61) creative director at CarmiUbertis, Milan (Italy)

Elio Carmi (61) creative director at CarmiUbertis, Milan (Italy)

In the greatest technological era, dominated by high tech instruments even at workplaces, at Guedelon castle you can see people working hard according to the Middle Ages’ rules. Nothing so distant from nowadays working experiences. But don’t take it for granted. Gestures, tasks and the working aptitude are still the same.

THE GUEDELON CONSTRUCTION SITE
At the Guedelon construction site, kids learn and have fun. The idea began when a quirky businessman decided to build a castle using the construction model of the 13th century and medieval techniques. He hires able workers, some trained at the site, and many decide to participate for free as interns. Around the initiative, he then built a touristic and instructive business that pays for the project. Bravo!

WORK CONDITIONS
There are around 70 people working at the site and they get into work at 9 am. At 12.59 they run to the canteen (for medieval meals that are simple, but nutritious). From 2 pm to 6 pm they go back to work and then leave and go home. They talk a lot about their work to the visiting kids so that they can learn on site. The first curious element of these craftsmen of the learning-castle is their ability to provide an overall description of their specific role, as well as their role within a chain that goes from the raw material to the decorator. They know what they’re doing, how they do it and what the fruit of their trades are for. Try asking to the 99 percent of workers if they can describe their profession specifically or their job within their productive chain.

Thierry Beaupain (52) woodsman at Guedelon

Thierry Beaupain (52) woodsman at Guedelon

Giampiero Berni (42) lumberjack at Fratelli Zanetti, Croglio (Switzerland)

Giampiero Berni (42) lumberjack at Fratelli Zanetti, Croglio (Switzerland)

Florian Renucci (48) master-mason at Guedelon

Florian Renucci (48) master-mason at Guedelon

Stefano Guandalini (42) engineer at Pini Swiss, Lugano (Switzerland)

Stefano Guandalini (42) engineer at Pini Swiss, Lugano (Switzerland)

Laëtitia and Bruno, carters with Ardennais horse Kaboul

Laëtitia and Bruno, carters with Ardennais horse Kaboul

TEAM BUILDING
What this peculiar construction site teaches is also the quality of the work environment, which is facilitated by the super-relaxed rhythms, between a chat with schoolchildren and some work, done in shifts, all in all short ones and done in a magnificent place surrounded by nature. The climate, however, is based on awareness. Everyone there, as said, knows what to do; they discuss with each other how to complete tasks, they solve simple professional problems such as how to break a stone or square off an angle, all with a can-do attitude. In the evenings, when off or during holidays: to each their own.

JUST WORK
Well, drawing a conclusion and preaching morals is not nice; this magazine doesn’t do that. However, it comes to mind that when work is simply work, particular alchemies are not necessary to build a positive climate, do team building or to create incentives through special activities and social life within the group. Work is an all-embracing and satisfactory activity.

Practical information on how to access Guedelon Castle
The castle is mid-way between Paris and Lyon and it can be reached by both public transport and car. The site is open from the beginning of April to the end of October. Timetables are published on the web-site www.guedelon.fr. For kids, the privileged visitors of the castle, it is possible to participate in practical workshops of stone-cutting, flooring and pottery, among other things. The entrance fee is 10 euros, kids from 5 to 17 years of age pay a reduced fee of 8.50 euros. Guided visits can be organized and food is available. The tools and construction techniques belong to the 13th century, and visiting the site means entering a working world that is entirely manual and where gestures are simple, repetitive, and coordinated on the different trades, which are at the same time perfectly integrated with one another.

Stonamasons working on the western curtain wall

Stonamasons working on the western curtain wall

Carpenters working at the carpenters' lodge

Carpenters working at the carpenters’ lodge

Vincent and Martin at the forge

Vincent and Martin at the forge


Published in the hard-copy of Work Style Magazine, Spring 2014