Cabling the Palace of Versailles
Between 2007 and 2011 Nexans provided, free of charge, the high voltage and low voltage cables required for the renovation of the Palace of Versailles. Russell Drury climbed aboard the Eurostar to go and take a look.The Château de Versailles has been on UNESCO’s World Heritage List for 30 years and is one of the most beautiful achievements of 18th century French art. The site began as Louis XIII’s hunting lodge before his son Louis XIV transformed and expanded it, moving the court and government of France to Versailles in 1682. Each of the three French kings who lived there until the French Revolution added improvements to make it more beautiful.
The château lost its standing as the official seat of power in 1789 but acquired a new role in the 19th century as the Museum of the History of France, which was founded at the behest of Louis-Philippe, who ascended to the throne in 1830. That is when many of the château’s rooms were taken over to house the new collections, which were added to until the early 20th century, tracing milestones in French history.
In 2003, the French Ministry for Culture and Communication and the Palace of Versailles launched the ‘Great Versailles’ project. Planned over a duration of 17 years, this major renovation project will include a number of works aimed at increasing the safety and improving the reception of seven million visitors each year as well as rearranging and restoring the château and Estate of Versailles so that they recover their original aesthetic and architectural qualities.
As part of the sponsoring agreement with the Public Corporation of the National Museum and Estate of the Palace of Versailles, Nexans signed a five year sponsorship agreement valued in the region of between €500,000 and €1m to contribute to the renovation of technical networks in the palace and estate between 2007 and 2011. The agreement included making the Royal Opera compliant with safety standards, upgrading networks and creating a power hub under the Grand Lodging courtyard, reorganising the visitors’ reception at the Dufour Pavilion and rearranging the groves near the Ballroom and the Fountain of Apollo.
Nexans provided, free of charge, the high voltage and low voltage cables necessary for the different phases of the project and participated in the refurbishing of the voice/data communication networks of the palace and domain.
At the start of the project, Frédéric Vincent, chairman and CEO, Nexans, said, ‘As a company that is more than one century old, Nexans feels a sense of civic responsibility to help equip and preserve our national heritage. It is natural that we should bring our expertise in cabling and safety systems to support projects such as Grand Versailles.’
A power production centre is being built in the basement of the inner courtyard of the Grand Lodgings to provide the primary power necessary for the functioning of the entire domain. The estimated required power capacity of this technical centre is 28,000kW. The power production rooms have previously been dispersed around the basements of the Palace.
The power production centre accommodates a 20kV electrical supply, a medium voltage back up electrical power supply and a low voltage safety electrical power supply.
The medium voltage loop installed on the energy pole integrates the Grand Lodgings building, the palace itself (the south wing, the central body and the north wing) and the Royal Opera.
Nexans has installed low voltage cables (primary and secondary distribution) from its Alsecure range, while the data and LAN architecture is equipped with Category 6 halogen free cables and optical fibre backbone cables.
The Dufour Pavilion
The Dufour Pavilion previously served as the offices for the administrative and scientific services of the Palace of Versailles. When refurbishment is complete it will be reserved as the reception area for individual visitors, as the services offices move to the Grand Lodgings.
Nexans also provided low voltage cables here from its Alsecure range, as well as low voltage fire safety cables of type CR1 with one hour’s fire resistance.
The Royal Opera
One of the finest of the court theatres and with virtually perfect acoustics, the Royal Opera was refurbished in 1770 under the reign of Louis XV and transformed into a large hall for spectacles such as the marriage of Dauphin and Marie-Antoinette. It was equipped with a mechanical system that enabled the floor of the auditorium to be raised level with the stage.
Nexans has been involved in the renovation and bringing up to standard of the entire low voltage electrical distribution system (normal and safety). Low voltage cables from the Alsecure and Alsecure Plus range were also supplied for this part of the project.
Given that the building is made entirely of wood and highly vulnerable to fire it was vital to make it compliant with modern safety standards.
Nexans supplied low voltage power cables to the palace gardens which include the Ballroom Grove and the Groves of the Baths of Apollo. The Groves of Versailles were used as outside parlours nestling in the heart of the wooded areas of the Petit Parc of Versailles. Some of them were equipped with dressers and tables and Louis XIV rendered them famous by using them as places of entertainment and festivity. He organised shows and balls in its amphitheatre decorated with rocks and shells from the Red Sea and Indian Ocean and still hosts concerts and ballets today with seating for 250 spectators.
When Louis XVI gifted the Trianon domain to Marie-Antoinette she found the peaceful haven she had been seeking for so long. It was a place where she could escape the straitjacket of royal etiquette.
The electrical installations have been brought into compliance with standards and modern digital means implemented, including high performance data network with WiFi, information and ticketing terminals for the public.
The medium voltage loop takes in the Grand Trianon, the Petit Trianon, the Queen’s Village and the Palace of Versailles Research Centre.
Jean-Jacques Aillagon, president of the Public Establishment of the Museum and National Domain of Versailles, said, ‘The renovation of the palace’s technical networks is indeed a major project, and one that is vital in the refurbishing of the Versailles museum and domain. It was with a sense of immense joy and gratefulness that, on my arrival at Versailles, I learned of Nexans’ commitment to patron us.
‘In 2020 the palace will, I hope, have regained all its former splendor and the cultural and artistic richness that brings this historical Mecca to life, while at the same time fulfilling its prime role, namely to receive an ever growing public under optimum conditions.’