The Gardener of Versailles

Chateau de versailles/t. garnier

Louis Benech—who worked on the Tuileries 24 years ago—reimagines a landscape at the iconic French château.

One of Europe’s leading contemporary garden designers, Louis Benech, became acquainted with French royalty through the Tuileries. Twenty-four years ago, he was commissioned, along with Pascal Cribier and François Roubaud, to reshape the ancient section of André Le Nôtre’s garden, and today his connection to Louis XIV’s friend and master gardener has taken a fresh and glamorous turn. In 2011 Benech won the international contest for the restoration of the Bosquet du Théâtre d’Eau (Water Theater Grove), located in the gardens of Château de Versailles. In the time of Louis the Great, who was an excellent dancer and choreographer, the grove was conceived as an outdoor stage for court spectacles.

Rather than re-create the past, Benech has designed, in a space measuring 161,500 square feet, the first modern garden ever to be seen in these historical surroundings. He collaborated with the glass sculptor Jean-Michel Othoniel, asking him to produce three sculptures to be installed on the fountains. The glass bubble arabesques by Othoniel are inspired by a book in which the monarch’s dance steps were recorded. “I wanted people to relate to the magic and the poetry of Le Nôtre’s creations,” says Benech.

Benech’s garden will be inaugurated in fall 2014 at Place d’Armes;