Part of the Domaine National de Versailles for potential sale at the Salon de l’Immobilier d’Entreprise

1. A view of the stand "Versailles Grand Parc" at the SIMI.
The map of the property for sale can be seen at the back (ill. 3)
Wednesday 30th November 2011
Photo : La Tribune de l’Art

5/12/11 - Heritage - Versailles, Domaine National - The City of Versailles is currently attempting to enact a new urban development plan (called Plan Local d’Urbanisme in French). In a long article, not translated, on our French website, La Tribune de l’Art, we showed how this plan was a serious threat to part of the park in Versailles since the scheme would allow it to be used as commercial real estate with no regard for its patrimonial importance, government property since the time of Louis XIV. The latest developments in this affair are particularly worrisome and prove how dangerously fast the project is moving.

Indeed, we were astounded to discover the presence of "Versailles Grand Parc", a municipal division managed by the mayor of Versailles, at the commercial real estate trade fair (in French, Salon de l’immobilier d’entreprise or SIMI [1]) (ill. 1) which ended on 2 December at the Palais des Congrès, Porte Maillot, in Paris. As described on the Internet website for "Versailles Grand Parc" : "This trade fair promotes available [sic] real estate, [...] and contacts [with...] investors, developers, companies, real estate agents. [2]" ! The land in question is located both inside the area of the Grand Canal, the focus of our first study (the lots at Pion and Satory) but also falls within the former hunting grounds of the palace (the Santos-Dumont lot for example).

2. An aerial view of the lots at Pion and Santos-Dumont.
In yellow : an unprotected zone located between the classified
site of the Versailles plain and the area of the "Grand Parc"
listed as a historical monument.
In red : the wall of the park,
built in 1685 in its present state ;
in green : the layout of the former paths in Fontenay and Saint-Cyr.
Taken from a view on Google Earth, October 2007.

3. A map of constructible zones on the VGP land.
In green : "project for development"
in blue : "project in progress"
in pink : "activities zone"
This map was displayed on the stand (ill. 1) at the SIMI.

That precise property should never be developed because it would obstruct the view of the "grande perspective" at Versailles (ill. 2), but this is the one now unfortunately being offered to developers at Pion and at Santos-Dumont (ill. 3). Taking advantage of a baffling loophole [3] in the protection of the domain of Versailles (ill. 2, in yellow), "Versailles Grand Parc" is now compromising the remains of the original wall of the park, built in 1685 (ill. 2, in red) and the renewal of the avenues of the Etoile Royal [4], the veritable "hand" of the king who used to ride through the hunting park of the château. The replanting of the tree lined paths in Fontenay and Saint-Cyr (ill. 2, in green) amid the future "activities zone" of Pion-Santos-Dumont would be truly absurd, but of course extremely pleasant for the companies there, which would in fact find themselves directly linked to the château... We would almost venture to predict that the development of the properties at Pion and Santos-Dumont would also produce the same result for the adjoining airfield despite its classification with the plain of Versailles [5]. This determination to build at Santos-Dumont is all the more puzzling since the PLU for Saint-Cyr was canceled by the Administrative Tribunal on 16 December 2010 because it is incompatible with the aeronautic demands of the adjoining airfield ; the same conditions protect the upper half of the Pion lot and make it impractical to develop, as we have already stated.
There is no need to point out the absurdity of the "Versailles Grand Parc" project which has found no better use for the land extending away from the Etoile Royal other than to offer it up for a business zone. This is all the more groundless since the city of Saint-Cyr has other areas it could develop : it is planning to commercialize 25 hectares in the ZAC (zone d’activité commerciale, in French) Charles Renard (ill. 3) (as opposed to 9 at Santos-Dumont) and should leave it at that. After all, wouldn’t it be better to keep Pion and Santos-Dumont free of construction and replant the alleys in Saint-Cyr and Fontenay, thus offering the local population a privileged access to the château ? We would say the same about the military maneuvers fields at Satory which remain unchanged today but which are supposed to be built up in the future (ill. 3). Is this what we call sustainable development ?

The site of Matelots-Mortemets does not (yet) appear on future building zones (ill. 3) as its development needs to be approved by the Etablissement Public of Versailles which will soon be managing it. Let’s wait and see...

4. A map of the transportation connections for the Grand Parc
in Versailles established by the municipal division for "investors".

Even more astounding is the map provided by the "Versailles Grand Parc" municipal division showing potential "investors" how the Grand Parc of the château is well connected to surrounding highways and railways (ill. 4), although it does not include the three new stations which have also been promised (at Pion, Matelots and Satory). Can the fragile environment of the Domaine de Versailles resist this intensive increase in traffic ? We sincerely think not.

We have seen that "Versailles Grand Parc" does not correctly respect its rich heritage, a fact which does not keep it from vaunting a prestigious title with a double historical reference : that which today designates the area of the Grand Canal (ill. 2, in blue) and the one previously defining the château’s hunting park (ill. 2, in red) [6]... Claiming to be part of the cultural heritage while destroying it at the same time qualifies as something we would term, in an understatement, paradoxical.

Version française

Julien Lacaze, lundi 5 décembre 2011


[1] The SIMI is organized by the "Groupe Moniteur", "founding partner" along with Bouygues Immobilier, a real estate company, of the museum Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine located at Trocadero in Paris and whose president is François de Mazières, mayor of Versailles.

[2] « Ce salon permet de promouvoir le foncier disponible [sic] […] et de rencontrer […] investisseurs, promoteurs, entreprises, agents immobiliers. »

[3] The fact that the Pion lots are not classified does not mean that they are less important to heritage, but due simply to administrative red tape : the reclassification of the "Grand Parc" of the château by a decree of 31 October 1906 took place ten months too late since Pion was assigned to the army on 6 January 1906, meaning that the military had to approve including it - which they never did -in the classification.

[4] See the remarkable study for the enhancement of the classified plain of Versailles carried out by DAT Conseils for DIREN IF (Direction Régionale de l’Environnement, Ile de France).

[5] There is a plan to build about fifty lodgings for low income housing at Chèvreloup as part of this project.

[6] The château originally consisted of three areas : the Jardin (renamed the Petit Parc after 1900), that of the Petit Parc protecting the Grand Canal (renamed Grand Parc around 1900), and that of the Grand Parc, or hunting grounds, which had fallen into disuse.

imprimer Print this article

Previous article in News Items : Two Stolen Paintings Back in their Parisian Church

Next article in News Items : The Death of Virginia by Gabriel-François Doyen Joins the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Rennes