Vexin Français (France)

Autors: Katalin Escher, Anne-Sophie Godot, Laurence Hamelin, Beatriz Menéndez


The Vexin Français territory, located in the Metropolitan France, Île-de-France, spans 3 departments:

Yvelines, Val-d'Oise, Oise. Pontoise, the main city, is located about 35 km northwest of Paris.

Protected area of the regional natural park of French Vexin was created in 1995 (calculated surface area-SIG: 71,055.977 ha).


The French Vexin offers nice landscapes and environments (limestone hillsides, marshes, woods, etc.). This vast limestone plateau, dominating the surrounding regions by about 100 m, is bounded by the Seine to the south, the Oise to the east, the Epte to the west and the Troësne and Esches to the north.

Site description

The Vexin Français is a Natural Regional Parc. The classification of the Park is based as much on the quality of the landscapes and natural environments as on the great homogeneity and the architectural quality of the villages. The “Vexin français” Regional Natural Park is managed by a Joint Development and Management Syndicate which brings together the Île-de-France Region, the Departments of Val d'Oise and Yvelines, the 98 municipalities and 6 communities of municipalities.

The Vexin Français plateau is cut by valleys with contrasting profiles, sometimes long, narrow and dotted with small valleys (Viosne, Sausseron) or which open out into real alluvial plains (Aubette de Magny). The landscapes of French Vexin are strongly marked by agricultural activity dominated by field crops (wheat, barley, rapeseed). Overlooking the plateau, the mounds of Arthies, Rosne and Marines raise their wooded silhouette and have retained their cap of sand and millstone.

The specificity of French Vexin also lies in its architectural and built heritage. All styles of architecture coexist and testify to an ancient occupation and different periods of construction. As a counterpoint to the remarkable architecture of the castles, churches and large agricultural estates, we note the simplicity of the rural heritage of French Vexin (crosses, mills, fountains, dovecotes, washhouses, etc.). Today, almost all the villages have one or more monuments protected as Historic Monuments. The Vexin Français Regional Natural Park is committed to safeguarding and promoting this heritage, as well as the know-how that has shaped it. In 2014, the French Vexin was the first regional natural park to be labeled "Pays d'art et d'histoire" by the Ministry of Culture and Communication.

Typology of cultural heritage assets

Built cultural heritage in the included many different kind of buildings, from Neolithic monuments or gallo-romains ruins to important “chateaux” and Churches recognised as national monuments, and many different vernacular cultural heritage constructions. This project deals with this kind of heritage.

Concerning protected national historic monuments there are more than one hundred that can be found in the data., open database plateforme of the French Ministry of Culture.

We will describe some type of the vernacular cultural heritage that will be treated in the project:

  • Farmhouse, fortified farm, stately farm

  • Bourgeois house, middle-class architecture

  • Rural house, village house

  • Maneuver laborer house, winegrower's house (winemaker's house)

  • Cave house

  • Water mill

Farmhouse, fortified farm, stately farm

Established regularly in the territory, the farms shape the landscape by their exterior appearance, their imposing buildings and their monumental entrances with porches, cart or pedestrian doors. In the village, their shape generally follows the occupied plot, rectangle or square. The large farms are often found at the entrance to the village while the small farms are scattered there.

Organized around a central courtyard, the farmhouse is an autonomous functional unit. The buildings housing men and animals open to the south on the courtyard side. The large barns are often the oldest parts of the complex. The home is distinguished from other buildings by the greater number of decorations and openings, and sometimes an additional floor.

The farmhouse has great potential for reconversion thanks to the reception capacity of its buildings. It is first necessary to establish a diagnosis of the pathologies of each part and then to carry out a project considering the geographical, historical, architectural and functional aspects.

Bourgeois house, middle-class architecture

Built for strictly residential use in the 18th century by petty lords and in the 19th century by wealthy industrialists and farmers, the bourgeois houses did not take up the local architecture but followed the national fashion of their time. Schematically, there are three types : the 18th century neoclassical house, the rock garden house of the neo-traditionalist “rustic” trend at the end of the 19th century, the resort house on the model of seaside houses at the beginning of the 20th century. The center of the village being occupied by rural houses, the bourgeois house was established on the edge of the village, but some were able to be built in the town center following demolitions. The house, richly decorated, is located in the center of a large lot and is exposed to the sight of passers-by through a beautiful fence.

With a square plan and vertical composition (windows taller than they are wide, superimposed), the narrow volume is not inspired by traditional housing. There are sometimes protruding elements in the roof such as turrets, balconies or verandas.

The facades, often clear, present a symmetry for aesthetic purposes, to imitate an idealized architecture. In the same spirit, the effects of decoration refer to particular architectural styles such as the medieval style. There is often a semi-buried level with basement windows. Intended for collective living and welcoming guests, the ground floor dominates the whole with its high ceilings, unlike the other floors reserved for private life.

It is a house adapted to contemporary lifestyles that requires small arrangements, possibly secondary extensions such as a terrace or veranda

The “Vexinoise” rural house is generally rectangular, the depth of the building hardly exceeds 6 to 7 meters whatever its height. The height of the facade is at least equal to and more often greater than that of the roof. The roof, generally gable, does not overhang either the facade or the gable with a slope of 35 to 45°. Some outbuildings sometimes have a roof with a slope called "shed roof". The walls are made of limestone, connected and protected by a mortar (plaster, fat lime).

Maneuver laborer house, winegrower's house (winemaker's house)

The winegrowers' houses were part small farms of a few hectares, largely dominated by vines, supplemented by crops subsistence and animal husbandry. The house has adapted to the cultivation of the vine and in particular its transformation and its storage. The value of this culture is inevitably reflected on the architecture of this habitat, richer than that of the laborer, of which he represents an evolution.

Most of these houses consist only on a ground floor or with an upper floor reduced to a single living room, an attic above, a storeroom below or beside. Many of these houses overlooked a common courtyard. It was therefore often via the common courtyard that one accessed from on the same level or by an outer staircase  to interiors, and more particularly to this piece, most of the time unique which is called "chamber" when it is upstairs, and where all the family life took place.

Cave house

In the Seine valley, troglodytes are dug along the cliff that borders the river and bear the name “boves”. "Bove" could come of "bovine" and would have been used to designate the cavities mainly used as stables; or hewould come from the old French bove "mud" or bover "dig". These boves, of various shapes, are dug according to needs and uses: parts can be added as needed, the furniture (fireplace, bench) is sculpted directly into the rock face. Inground in large numbers, boves can form veritable troglodyte villages stretching along along the cliff, facing the Seine, as in Haute-Isle or Clachaloze.

The troglodyte habitat constitutes a heritage atypical and still alive whose protection is essential. Perfectly integrated into the landscape, often not very energy-intensive, it can inspire the most contemporary architecture. The safeguarding this habitat also overlaps with environmental issues such as fight against soil erosion.

Water mill

The Vexin, cereal land, is traversed by a network particularly dense hydrographic. The energy provided by this multitude of watercourses led to the appearance, from the 13th century, many mills, mainly wheat mills. The mills of Pontoise, Viosne and Sausseron transform wheat into flour. This is then sent to the Halles de Paris, Saint-Germain-en-Laye or from Rouen, by the Oise and the Seine. In the 18th century, Pontoise flour was reputed to be among the best around Paris. This production constitutes until the 19th century the driving force of the local economy.[5] Each village and hamlet in our region had its own mill or mills. Milling reached its climax in the 18th century when it was one of the greatest activities of the Vexin. Today the water mills that were in operation in the Vexin have disappeared.

Delimitation of the area extension,

Old postcard “View of the farm”, Théméricourt (Valdoisemybalade, PAT95610019_3602)

Fortified farm protected by the walls of residential and farm buildings, its facades without opening up to a height of 2.50 meters to 3 meters above the ground, offering a flawless and difficult to grasp surface (Le Bellay-en-Vexin, Val-d’Oise, ferme de l’Hôtel-Dieu, © Floriane Louïs)

Larger stately buildings also have a gatehouse flanked by towers equipped with arches, an efficient system that symbolizes the power of the owner (Moussy, Val-d’Oise, manoir d’Aumont, © Floriane Louïs).

(1773) description of the farm, posting of the sale. Recueil d'affiches et placards imprimés relatifs au Vexin, XVIIe-XVIIIe s. (p. 27), Bibliothèque nationale de France. Département des manuscrits

Abandoned farm photographed in 2019 (Association Sauvegarde Vexin Sausseron

Organized around a central courtyard, the big farm of Guiry is located at the entrance to the village (Bulletin de l’AVF, No 42)

Farmhouse in the countryside (PNR-VF-Guide pratique du patrimoine bâti du Vexin français-Les corps de ferme)

Farmhouse in the countryside (PNR-VF-Guide pratique du patrimoine bâti du Vexin français-Les corps de ferme)

Examples of bourgeois houses in the French Vexin(

example of a south-facing veranda, old-fashioned restoration of a 19th century bourgeois house, enhancement and contemporary transformation of the south wing (Architect : Alain Le Masson)(

Examples of Maison de manouvrier ou de vigneron (Cahier de recommandations pour restaurer ou construire dans le respect de l’architecture régionale du Vexin Français. 2002. Special number of the Bulletin Association Sauvegarde Vexin Sausseron)

Examples of Maison de manouvrier ou de vigneron (Cahier de recommandations pour restaurer ou construire dans le respect de l’architecture régionale du Vexin Français. 2002. Special number of the Bulletin Association Sauvegarde Vexin Sausseron)

Troglodyte habitat at La roche Guyon

Haut-Isle La Annonciation Chruch (

Mill at Montreuil sur Epte (Archives départamentales Val d’Oise 2468 W 10007 - Montreuil-sur-Epte. - Moulin. 2001)

Mill at Arthieul (Archives départamentales Val d’Oise 2511 W 3566 - Moulin du Petit Arthieul. 1982-2005)

Mill at Chars (CPA Chars Val d'Oise, Moulin Consulted on January 2022)

Mill at Nesles-lla-Vallée(Photo Cpsm Cpm 95 NESLES-LA-VALLEE. Le Moulin. De Champierre 1987 Consulted on January 2022)