Dominique Perrault Architecture furnishes the Palace of Versailles with more gold

A mix of opulence and understatement dominate the renovation.

VERSAILLES – The Palace of Versailles has undergone refurbishment. As usual, when cultural institutions get a makeover, the emphasis is on service facilities and additional revenue bringers, like a museum shop and restaurant. It is hard to imagine that there is anything that can add to the glamour of Versailles – let alone that it could be service facilities.

Photo Dominique Perrault Architecture / Adagp

This is exactly where Dominique Perrault Architectures’ success lies. For the benefit of the 7.5 million chateau visitors per year, the French architecture firm has managed to introduce a much needed entrance and reception area on the ground floor, as well as a restaurant and auditorium on the upper levels. The new public spaces, inserted in the Pavilion Dufour, which is situated between Royal Courtyard and Princess Courtyard, do not take any of the historic building’s dignity away. Instead, they charm it with a modern lightness, politely avoiding to either imitate or contradict the historic opulence from Louis XIV’s days.

Photo André Morin / Dominique Perrault Architecture / Adagp

The positive result of this tightrope walk can be appointed to Gaëlle Lauriot-Prévost, designer and artistic director of Dominique Perrault Architects. Determined to mediate the historicity of the palace rather than to imitate it, she adopted the colour gold as a binding element between past and present. The flooring’s traditional Versailles pattern, all made from stone, is consequently interrupted by matt golden metal inlays, which have been used for some door frames too.  And so the classy matt gold is like a red thread revealing itself on various occasions, as the handrailing for the wide marble exit stairs or framing a new gold-coloured glass corridor.

Photo André Morin / Dominique Perrault Architecture / Adagp

A true highlight is the lighting which Lauriot-Prévost designed too. Looking at the designer’s previous projects, like the Grand Theatre in Albi or the ceiling lights for Garibaldi Station in Naples, it is immediately clear that she has an affinity for lighting design – as well as for metal and minimal forms. Combining all the three for Versailles, her special lamps and chandeliers do not only add luminosity but contemporary sculptural appeal to old stone walls. 

Photo André Morin / Dominique Perrault Architecture / Adagp

At the end of the visitor experience comes, of course, a museum shop and the restrooms. In the case of Versailles, these least attractive facilities have been cleverly hidden away below ground in especially restored tanks. 

Photo Patrick Tourneboeuf / Tendance Floue / Oppic

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