The redevelopment of the Pavilion Dufour and the Old Wing creates two new public spaces in the Château de Versailles. The old administrative offices have now made way for a new reception area between the Cour Royale (Royal Courtyard) and the Cour des Princes (Princes’ Courtyard), as well as a large staircase leading to the gardens. Visitors to the Palace are invited to follow a loop, just like in most of the world’s greatest museums.
The feeling of “narrowness” has now disappeared: by digging a trench under the buildings and the Cour des Princes, the redevelopment opens up new spaces on the ground level and creates larger volumes on the garden level.
The new reception area, entirely dedicated to enhancing visitor experience, starts in the Galerie des Lustres (Chandeliers Gallery) on the ground floor of the Old Wing. This high-ceilinged space, which opens on to the Cour Royale and the Cour des Princes, is the first room visitors see as they make their way into the Palace. The Versailles they discover – draped in metal, elegant and modern – echoes the stone and woodwork of the historic buildings.
The gallery allows immediate access to the Cour Royale, where the visit begins. Before they exit, visitors follow a lower path on the garden level, underneath the Cour des Princes, which takes them to a string of new rooms including a bookstore in refurbished tanks, restrooms, a checkroom and a cloakroom.
The main attraction on this level is the natural light brought into the new space by a gold-colored glass corridor. Acting like a large prism, the glass panels reveal the facades of the Old Wing and the wide marble staircase which connects the inside to the outside, and the Château to its gardens.
The loop begins and ends with the reception area and the marble staircase alongside its golden prism: the two new spaces are thus connected like the clasp on a necklace.
The Pavilion Dufour and the Old Wing are revived on their upper levels as well as their foundations. On the second floor, a new restaurant and adjoining tea rooms in gold and listed wood paneling, now welcome visitors. Finally, the third floor now hosts a new auditorium, covered in wood sheathing like an upside-down boat hull and surrounded with period rooms on either side.
This redevelopment evidences the intrinsic qualities of classical architecture: under the guise of stillness and symmetry, everything remains the same and yet everything changes. Historical heritage is entirely preserved, while allowing for new contemporary usages that remain to be invented. The Pavilion Dufour and the Old Wing of the Palace are part of a whole, and yet they also exist as an independent area, separate from the rest of the Château. By working “under the skin” of the buildings, the redevelopment offers a functional, sustainable and efficient solution while preserving the larger layout of the Palace and the outline of its wings.
Throughout each era in its long history, the Château de Versailles has acted as a showcase for modern talents. With the Pavilion Dufour, the Old Wing and the Perrault Staircase, the Château remains faithful to its heritage.
Dominique Perrault, February 2016
DESIGN AT THE PAVILION DUFOUR
The repurposing of spaces and of their interconnections is further enhanced by the subtle treatment of the interiors, with a focus on three key areas: flooring, ceiling, and chandeliers. Metal, the main material utilized, pulls the project into a coherent whole, while highlighting the contemporary character and strengthening the visibility of the intervention.
Parquet with metal slats covers the floors, in places repeating the renowned “Versailles” pattern. Punctuating this space are the light fixtures, like the ones in the form of standards for example, affixed between the windows of the reception gallery; their curves and reverse curves in harmonious dialog with the broad gadroons formed by the covering hanging from the ceiling, with the interior all in amber or flamboyant tones. The auditorium is clad in wood. Echoing the gilded formal wrought-iron entrance to the palace forecourt and the recently restored gilded lead roof ornaments, decorations and furnishings designed for the site blend a range of materials into a sort of flavescent cameo, while reflections from the mesh and the floor cast a satin appearance on them.
The restaurant, located in a string of rooms on the second floor of the Pavilion Dufour and the Old Wing, is served by a special entrance on the garden level, in the South portico. Its furniture and chandeliers come in russet and metallic hues, matching the color scheme of the building. In the Pavilion Dufour, the structural intervention needed to level the floors was used as an opportunity to redesign the period rooms. A set of gilded geometric surfaces were applied to the doorways and door bases, giving the rooms a more contemporary look. In the Old Wing, the intervention took the more discreet form of a taupe tint, which was applied to the listed wood floors, paneling and woodwork. This homogeneous treatment, prescribed by Chief Architect in charge of Historical Monuments Frédéric Didier, bears the added bonus of honoring traditional usages. The bar area tying the two spaces together has a mysterious atmosphere created by metallic onyx-colored mirroring and vertical light tubes. The visual effect of the classic en-suite layout is heightened by a carpet running from room to room. The required servant spaces, located in the middle of the rooms, regulate usage while preserving access to the windows looking down on the Royal Courtyard and the Princes Courtyard. An auditorium nestles under the mansard roof of the attic, where the existing dormer windows shine like lightboxes on the wood-sheathed roof break. Thanks to the wide splays surrounding them, the daylight coming in is tinged with gold.
In the Princes Courtyard, the emergence of a pure glass prism signals the location of this contemporary intervention. In a reference to the famous parabolic reflector designed as an experiment for Louis XIV, the wall running alongside the staircase leading to the exit is composed of a collection of large gilded metal blades, which serve to reflect natural light into the ground floor areas. A discreet evocation of the sun king's emblem, the disk-shaped washers with radial grooves that cover the screws holding these blades in place are among the subtle elements we utilized in the contextualization of our intervention.
This intentional use of references is not a series of isolated elements in our work. The abundant iconography of the palace provided us with a privileged source of inspiration for the design of the interiors, and notably for the chandeliers and other lightings. In fact, we seized upon a whole set of figures and motifs, which we have interpreted, and abstracted, to create a highly specific and contemporary decorative vocabulary, while mindfully seeking to avoid the trap of easy and immediate imitation.
Dominique Perrault, Architect
Gaëlle Lauriot-Prévost, Designer
The redevelopment of the Pavilion Dufour and the Old Wing creates two new public spaces in the Château de Versailles. The old administrative offices have now made way for a new reception area between the Cour Royale (Royal Courtyard) and the Cour des Princes (Princes’ Courtyard), as well as a large staircase leading to the gardens. Visitors to the Palace are invited to follow a loop, just like in most of the world’s greatest museums.The feeling of “narrowness” has...
- Year 2016
- Work finished in 2016
- Client Opérateur du patrimoine et des Projets Immobiliers de la Culture (OPPIC) - Etablissement Public du Château, du musée et du domaine national de Versailles
- Status Completed works
- Type Museums / Pavilions / Art Galleries / Recovery/Restoration of Historic Buildings