Les Machines de l’île is a totally unprecedented project. A product of François Delaroziere and Pierre Orefice’s collective imagination, it is the only place where you’ll find Jules Verne’s “Invented Worlds,” the mechanical universe of Leonardo da Vinci, and Nantes’ industrial history, all on the exceptional site of the city’s former shipyards.
Some strange machines came to populate the Île de Nantes. After the Grand éléphant, this is now the turn of a Manta Ray, a Sea Snake and of all kinds of incredible boats to take possession of the banks of the Loire River in the Carrousel des Mondes Marins. These uncommon machines were born from the hands of the constructors of the company La Machine and came to life in between those of Les Machines de l’île before the public’s eyes. Their backwards and forwards between the building workshop and the Galerie des Machines give impetus to the movement at the heart of the former Dubigeon warehouses. They convey a mysterious reality to this island just like the time when vessels were launched there for all the trips of the world.
Demonstrating the creative process
The two designers also chose to put the entire creative process on display, from the very first sketches drawn by François Delarozière. The materials are in their natural state, and the mechanisms are all visible. The building process can be seen for all the sculptures, whether steel or wood.
Being able to watch the workshop of the company La Machine in activity enhances this unprecedented tour / performance that is both entertaining and educational.
A story told by the machinists
The machinists who are working to place the Machines in motion and bring them to life explain how the mechanisms work and how they were developed. During the tour / performance the Machines periodically awaken, suddenly turning into animals or monsters.
The universe of the Machines can be enjoyed by all generations and is perfect for family and group outings.
There’s no separation between the adult world and the world of children. Parents are not only accompanying, they are also concerned with the awakening of their children, and they share their trip and discover behind the animal the machine in motion.
Pierre Orefice holds a masters in economics and attended Sciences Politiques in Paris. From 1985 to 1998, he was the producer and administrator of Royal de Luxe, the street theatre company based in Nantes since 1989. He also directed the project Cargo 92. Le Cargo Melquiades-Ville de Nantes carried on board four French theatre companies – Royal de Luxe, Mano Négra, Philippe Découflé and Philippe Genty – and docked at eight ports in South America.
From 1998 to 2007, Pierre Orefice was the artistic director of Manaus – an association creating and producing events in outdoor urban spaces. As such, he was invited by the cities of Antwerp and Nantes to coordinate their respective celebrations of the new millennium on the night of December 31st 1999. In 2004, he created an event for Nantes’ Floralies festival by building “the vegetal port of l’Île Feydeau,” followed by the “Embankment Gardens” in the Ceineray basin. In 2013 – the year when Nantes was the European Green Capital – this creation became permanent. Since 2001, Manaus has worked on the outdoor sets of the fictitious State of Groland, as well as the organization of the 2004 edition of the Angoulême International Comics Festival, where Groland was invited as guest country.
Co-author with François Delarozière of the Machines de l’île, Pierre Orefice is its director. He also is the director of the Nefs and the art director of the Seasons of Les Machines: Printemps des Nefs, Été indien aux Nefs and Noël (theater, music, circus, dance…) aux Nefs and Nantes Maker Campus.
He settled in the Heron Tree endowment fund created by Nantes Métropole in 2017 in order to co-pilot the project.
Author, with François Delaroziere of the Herons TreePproject, he steered the Herons Tree Project endowment fund alongside Karine Daniel from 2017 to 2022.
On October 1st, 2023, he retired. In 2024 and 2025, he will continue to participate in the cultural programming of Les Nefs with Laurent Mareschal and Patrick de Groote as part of an external mission entrusted by Le Voyage à Nantes.
François Delaroziere graduated from the Beaux-arts de Marseille fine arts school and founded the association, La Machine, in 1999. Its mission was to build sets and machines for the theatre, as well as merry-go-rounds. As the company’s artistic director, he has tirelessly explored the art of machines in movement and their ability to enchant spectators.
In 2003, François Delaroziere and Pierre Orefice created Les Machines de l’île as a way of accompanying the urban renewal of the westernmost tip of l’Île de Nantes designed by architect Alexandre Chemetoff. This cultural and touristic project paved the way for the “machines de villes”: these either mobile or permanent structures revitalize urban space.
In 2005, he also participated in the architectural revamping of Le Channel – Calais’ state-funded theatre – alongside Patrick Bouchain. In 2013, he created the project, “Les animaux de la place” in La Roche-sur-Yon. New projects for permanent machines would soon be completed – first in Nantes, with the Heron Tree, which he has co-designed and built. Toulouse and Calais will also be home to new creations in 2018 and 2019 respectively.
François Delaroziere is also a scenographer and theatre director. As such, he was responsible for Le Grand Répertoire – Machines de spectacle: a performance-exhibition featured between 2003 and 2006. Again in 2003, he created La Symphonie Mécanique with Mino Malan, combining the worlds of classical music and mechanical sounds. In 2008, Les Mécaniques Savantes were a world exclusive in Liverpool during its year as the European Cultural Capital. This mechanical bestiary was presented the following year in Japan for the 150th anniversary of the port of Yokohama. In 2010, a new show was born: Le Dîner des petites mécaniques, which reinvented the culinary arts, while L’Expédition végétale and its crew of botanical scientists took flight.
His latest production, LongMa Jing Shen, features a horse named Dragon, and was created in 2014 for the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations being established between France and China, which was held in Beijing. Since then, it has been presented in Nantes, Calais and Ottawa.