The Built Environment At The Gardens Of Versailles

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A review of the built environment at the Gardens of Versailles provides a rich perspective into the political culture during the Age of Enlightenment as one defined by the absolute rule of the monarch. Gardens at Versailles were first built by Louis XIII; however, it was during the reign of Louis XIV that the gardens were extensively expanded and adorned into the spectacle Versailles is known for today. Perhaps catalyzed by a hurt ego after the construction of Fouquet’s grand Vaux-le-Vicomte which was suspected to have been built using embezzled crown funds1, in 1661 Louis XIV began his epic project of the gardens designed almost entirely as an expression of his absolute power. Andres Le Nôtre, Versailles’ leading landscape architect, believed in the basic conception that landscape should be more impressive than the buildings it comprehends2. With over 800 hectares of gardens, the size of Versailles alone is quite daunting. Using forced perspective, Le Nôtre, further extended the site in the mind’s eye creating a scale incomparable to the surrounding villages3. No doubt those who visited the gardens were filled with awe, perhaps even fear. Versailles provided an almost urban environment, housing France’s aristocracy. Though the nobility was relatively pampered, there was no question that the king was in charge. Elaborate terracing, for example, gave the gardens hierarchical structure symbolizing feudal society, purposefully reinforcing the nobility’s servility by literally
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