Can a Palace Really be Sustainable? - Case Study of Versailles
SJR 04 - 05 - 2010

When one first looks at the Versailles Palace in France, the immediate thought that comes to mind is something to the effect of "over-the-top," or "gaudy." Sustainable is NOT what a visitor thinks, but on closer look some sustainable principles start to emerge. The palace was home to not only the king, but also the nobles of the court. Therefore the people not only lived at the palace, they also worked and entertained themselves in the palace on the grounds. This is similar to the concept of mixed-use in present day planning. A designer tries to create places that can meet every need of the residents. Along with residences, these mixed-use projects include grocery stores, offices, coffee shops, clothing stores, bars, restaurants, gathering spaces, and much more. Another feature that can be taken away from Versailles is the range of activities the grounds provide. In the center of the gardens in the mile-long Grand Canal around which people could walk or take a boat. The areas on either side of the canal offer a range of different size spaces for gathering. Some are large, like the formal gardens and the amphitheatre. Others are smaller and more intimate, like Apollo's Tree Grove. The lands beyond the gardens were used for horse-back riding and hunting. No matter what a person wanted to do, the Versailles grounds had it all. Inside there were numerous ballrooms and dining rooms for parties, as well as the different apartments. Also there are a lot of windows in the palace that allow the rooms to be naturally lit. While the concept behind Versailles can be seen as sustainable, the manner in which it was create wasn't. There is a large amount of unused space in the palace interiors and the excess of material, like the gold leaf covering many of the surfaces. The fact that the site was once a swamp meant that in order to construct the palace and grounds, all the land had to be drained. Then over a hundred fountains were added in the gardens. In fact there are so many fountains that they can't all be run at one time! So while the palace at first glance isn't a very sustainable piece of architecture and landscape architecture, there are plenty of concepts and principles that we as present-day designers can learn from. Hall of Mirrors and Plan of Versailles Grounds

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