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Gardens At Versailles To Get Revamped For The First Time In Centuries

Exactly how do you create a new grove and insert it into such a classic of French landscape design?

The gardens at Versailles haven’t been redesigned in centuries, but that’s about to change. With 6 million visitors annually and spanning 2,000 acres, they’re arguably the most adored gardens in the world–designed by André Le Nôtre in 1661 for King Louis XIV. The gardens fully embody the traditional French garden style, with manicured hedges and multitudinous fountains–the highly symmetrical approach is meant to evoke humankind’s conquering of nature.

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Among the attractions of Versailles’s gardens are individual groves known as bosquets, each with its own themes, sculptures, fountains, and such. Louis XIV’s favorite was the Water Theater grove, which had sculptures of several Roman gods (Mars, Pluto, Jupiter) as children, grassy levels for seats, and a stage.


Louis XVI replaced the Water Theater grove with a grassy lawn in 1775–it had been sadly neglected. In the 1990s, the grove was so thoroughly damaged that it has been in disuse ever since, and has mostly served as storage. This being no fate for the favorite garden of Louis XIV, the French government decided in 2011 to hold a contest to remodel the Water Theater grove; Louis Benech, a well-known French landscape architect, won it. (He has designed gardens for numerous French institutions; François Pinault, the luxury goods magnate and art collector; and Christian Louboutin, the footwear designer who is also his partner.)

Benech contracted Jean-Michel Othoniel, an artist best known for his glass sculptures, to create modern but referential artwork for the new design.

There will be, says the New York Times, “hundreds of trees and shrubs, pools and whimsical golden fountains on four acres” in the new Water Theater grove. Benech will keep a few of the original trees (or descendants of the original trees) which survived the 1990s storms, but almost everything else will be new. The golden fountains, designed by Othoniel, are long strings of golden glass orbs that shoot water–they’re playful, whimsical, and in keeping with Benech’s idea that the spirit of this particular bosquet is in the old artwork of the gods as children.

[H/T]: Read more about the new Versailles garden over at the New York Times.

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About the author

Dan Nosowitz is a freelance writer and editor who has written for Popular Science, The Awl, Gizmodo, Fast Company, BuzzFeed, and elsewhere. He holds an undergraduate degree from McGill University and currently lives in Brooklyn, because he has a beard and glasses and that's the law.

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