Jean-Jacques Aillagon States his Position on the Versailles PLU Project

We spoke with Jean-Jacques Aillagon about the PLU Project for the city of Versailles and as we found his position on the subject particularly interesting, we asked him two questions which he graciously accepted to answer.

You had campaigned, not too long ago, for the installation of Roland-Garros in the park at Versailles ; yet you told us that you were in fact against the idea, so why did you support it ?

Jean-Jacques Aillagon : My attachment to preserving the landscape at Versailles and reconstituting the unity of the national domain there is well known. For four years, I continuously alerted the French Ministry of Culture about the need to look at these questions vigilantly. I had in fact asked the specialists, Marc Desportes, Muriel Pagès and Pierre-André Lablaude to work on an observation mission evaluating the damages already imposed on the landscape and any future risks ; their conclusions were forwarded to all the parties involved. This notwithstanding, I can see how my openness to the possibility of installing Roland Garros on the southern end of the Domain national of Versailles might have seemed surprising. To better understand this paradox, we should remember several things. First of all, that it was not the Domaine national of Versailles which stepped up as a candidate of its own initiative but rather the Fédération française de tennis (FTT), with the support of Versailles City Hall, which showed interest in the site, although I told Mr. Gachassin, the [FTT] president that the heritage restrictions which applied there would make it very difficult. This said, I also realized that launching a study, at least, of a possible installation would allow everyone, the French government, the local communities, to take full stock of the serious legal problems related to the site made up by Mortemets and Matelots. Although it has already been returned to the Domain national, Mortemets still suffers from too many occupation rights which are deteriorating its landscape significantly, notably a shooting field plus the garages and parking lots of the local public transport company. As for Matelots, land which is listed as a historical monument, it is still occupied by the installations belonging to the Ministry of Defense, which are incongruous, anachronic and, in the case of the housing, architecturally deficient. We should recall that these are the result of building permits issued, alas, less than twenty years ago by the French Ministry of Culture itself ! The idea of installing Roland Garros meant that all of these anomalies would be pointed out, denounced and abolished. The project for the installation and the accompanying study of its impact on the landscape obviously recommended technical installations and stadiums with such constraints : building under the current ground levels, ensuring architectural quality, reconstituting historical layouts, replanting dense vegetation screens, regulating the lighting... that it all appeared very difficult, very expensive and therefore, not feasible. This served to prove that the site deserved much better than what was currently the case, that something more ambitious was needed, but that a project not related to its original patrimonial purpose was not really compatible with the restrictions imposed by the regulations and the qualitative treatment of the Versailles landscape.

The revision of the PLU voted by Versailles City Hall now allows the possibility of building on the land at Mortemets, that of Matelots, that of the Pion barracks notably, and also at Satory. What do you think about this project in terms of protecting the heritage of Versailles, notably of the park for which you always showed your concern ?

Jean-Jacques Aillagon : My position is clear : there exists a major priority for this heritage which is to accelerate the return to the Domain national of all of the lands still assigned to other users, notably Matelots which is even now assigned to the Ministry of Defense. Its occupation of the site, justified in another era, is no longer the case. We also need to terminate progressively all of the other concessions which are truly polluting the domain. We have to stop coming up each time the question arises, with a public protector who defends an illegitimate occupation contrary to heritage interest. Finally, we should carry out a vast reconstitution of the historical layout of planted areas, following the instructions of the chief architect, and approved by the department of historical monuments. This work has been started. We should also think about better securing the site which includes the Suisses pond, Mortemets and Matelots. The protection of this heritage, now defenseless against any risk, depends on it. Furthermore, I am convinced that we need to drastically reduce the construction on these plots. I differ with you on this point as you seem to exclude the principle of maintaining any buildings on this site. The ideal formula would be : no building at Mortemets except that necessary for operating and animating the site ; a drastic reduction of building areas at Matelots and their exclusive location in the section furthest from the castle ; rules for architectural quality avoiding any visual pollution of the landscape ; uses which are beneficial to the cultural and patrimonial purpose of the site. This is the objective that I constantly presented to the French Ministry of Culture and Communications, responsible for the protection of this domain listed as a historical monument and involved in obtaining Versailles’ classification as a Unesco world heritage site. Need we recall that the City of Versailles, which does not own it as this is a national domain, does however, as a municipal community, hold a regulatory power over it which, nevertheless, can only observe the law... I would add that the local communities should act to requalify the status of the Versailles plain, past the enclosure wall of the château and the Etoile Royale, in a decisive way and that, for example, the city of Marly le Roi which has a stadium there surrounded by a high thuja hedge blocking the view of the perspective, should understand finally its patrimonial responsibility.

Interviewed by Didier Rykner


We are extremely pleased that the former president of the Domaine national de Versailles has unambiguously confirmed the statements implied in the conclusion of his latest book : he is opposed to the urbanization projects of part of the Louis XIV park by Versailles City Hall. His current position in fact is no different from ours. We would like to see - following the demolition of the military installations - the land at Mortemets, Matelots, Pion and Satory classified as natural zones (NP [1]) which indeed authorizes light constructions whose use is beneficial to the natural and patrimonial purpose of a site which does not need "animating". Jean-Jacques Aillagon had given the example, during a conversation we had on the subject, of the sheds used by the gardeners to store their material.

Didier Rykner et Julien Lacaze

Version française

La Tribune de l’Art, mercredi 1er février 2012


[1] Zone NP, not to be confused with zone NPa, concerns for example, the areas immediately next to the Grand Canal and the fields close to the Trianon. Article NP 1 of the PLU Regulations "prohibits buildings, structures or works" there, except those "related to technical equipment" or "intended for the knowledge or discovery of the park on condition that they participate in preserving and enhancing the value of the natural park" (art. NP 2, 2° and 3°). PLU approved by the municipal council on 24 November 2011. 3a - Regulations. Written rule, p. 361.

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