Parks were a “convenient way for the wealthy, new and old, to isolate themselves” (Pregill, pg.234) from daily routines, something to which Versailles and Hampton Court were no exception. Graphic design came into the eighteenth century following a long period of slow innovation in the seventeenth century (Meggs, pg.108). King Louis XIV of France was a major supporter of all types of art and design and it was largely due to his contributions that graphic design was able to make such a swift come back. As well as commissioning his own typeface, King Louis XIV had an affinity for landscape design, which is apparent in his massive undertaking of the gardens of the Palace of Versailles. Garden designs in England were also undergoing construction at that time. Under the reign of King William and Queen Mary, the existing gardens of Hampton Court Palace were redesigned with a number of similarities to the gardens of Versailles (Green, pg.244).
Commonalities shared by Versailles and Hampton Court include their locations, both outside their respective capital cities, their original intent, they were originally used as royal hunting grounds, and their design. The landscape design of the gardens includes elements and principles such as line, proportion, and rhythm to reinforce the image of power, status, and wealth of the royals. Sharing much in common, the grandiose elements and principles used in the designs of Versailles and Hampton Court unquestionably display a wealth and splendor equal to no other, something which King Louis XIV would have been very pleased with.
The inspiration for the construction of Versailles originated from a French chateau named Vaux-le-Vicomte (Pregill and Volkman, pg.240). Vaux-le-Vicomte was, at its completion, a Chateau to be reckoned with, much to the displeasure of Louis XIV. In retaliation, Louis XIV commissioned the same designer from Vaux-le-Vicomte, Andre Le Notre, to design and “construct a chateau which would outshine all competitors” (Pregill and Volkman, pg.240). No expenses were to be spared, and although many believed it was a doomed task from the beginning, as the lands on which Louis XIV had chosen to build on were swampy, a group of army men were enlisted to plant trees and build a lake. Louis XIV was so pleased with the end results of the garden that he personally wrote a guidebook and conducted tours for his guests.
The palace gardens of Hampton Court were first laid out in the sixteenth century for King Henry VIII between 1530 and 1538 (Hampton Court Palace: The Gardens). The garden underwent numerous transformations, the most significant of which occurred in the sixteenth century, and was therefore very much designed with a Baroque style. Hampton Court was heavily influenced by Versailles, which is why the two gardens share so much in common. When Hampton Court was taken over by Queen Anne after the death of King William, much of the work that had been done was uprooted as per her request (Green, pg.244). Today, the gardens may be viewed as King William and Queen Mary intended, as they were restored in 1995.
Lines play a major role in the designs of Versailles and Hampton Court. Ingram says, “line is related to eye movement or flow” and is “inferred by bed arrangement and the way these beds fit or flow together”. A French garden characteristic, which is carried out in both Versailles and Hampton Court, is the use of parterres, which translates to “along-the-grounds” (Thompson). More elaborate designs are known as parterres de broderie, meaning embroidered-on-the-ground (Thompson). The use of parterres demonstrates a great use of lines as they were generally created not using plants, but “coloured earths and dusts” (Thompson).
Parterres were generally designed to be viewed from within the palaces and were therefore located right next to the buildings. The patterns were demonstrations of human control, only designed for the wealthy as they were very costly to create and maintain (Thompson). Everything designed around the parterres were low to ensure that the view was never obscured. An interesting, and fun, use of line at Hampton Court is the maze, which is still popular today, with pathways running through it of half a mile long, though the whole maze only covers a quarter of an acre (Johnson, para.6). Line is probably the most obvious design element used in Versailles and Hampton Court, as they are both geometric and based around a main axis.
Scale and proportion are very closely related, referring to “the size of an object or objects in relation to the surroundings” and “the size of parts of the design in relation to each other and to the design as a whole” (Ingram). The gardens of Versailles and Hampton Court were designed on a rather large scale. Versailles’ transformation took place on a total of 100 hectares of land (Dunlop, pg.584), and the features take full advantage of that. The garden was designed around a main axis stretching “almost ten kilometers long, with parallel and perpendicular secondary axes” (Lablaude, pg.33). Because of the enormity of the project, and incorporation of magnificent water features, a set of “fourteen enormous water-wheels” (Dunlop, pg.585) were built to bring five thousand cubic metres of water daily from the River Seine.
The water from the river supported fourteen thousand fountains, but only those near the palace were displayed for most of the day (Dunlop, pg.585). Everything about Versailles was designed on a grand scale, including flowerbeds, which accounted for the use of one hundred fifty thousand plants a year. Hampton Court has its own staggering numbers.
Annually, the palace “reports that [two hundred thousand] flowering bulbs are planted through the formal gardens, [one hundred forty thousand] plants are grown in the palace nurseries, and there are some [eight thousand] trees” (The Gardens). The Great Fountain Garden was a parterres, King William’s favourite, which featured “long scrolls of broderie edged with dwarf box and enriched with statues, pyramids of yew, and globes of bay and holly, [and] had no fewer than [thirteen] fountains… between the palace and the semicircular canal” (Green, pg.243). The royal gardens of Versailles and Hampton Court are indeed gardens of both great scale and wealth.
Balance and transition are both important aspects of landscape design. Balance refers to “the equilibrium or equality of visual attraction” (Ingram), which can be achieved either symmetrically, or asymmetrically, while transition “assists in the gradual movement of a viewer’s eye to the design and within it” (Ingram). Versailles obtains its balance by a grand central axis heading east to west, beginning at the King’s bedchambers, and heading into the setting sun. A main north-south axis was also put in place leading to a parterre, and the Swiss Lake respectively (Pregill, pg.241). Along the grand east-west axis were a number of features, including water parterres, fountains, and a turf allee.
The east-west axis also divided the grounds into mirror images of each other. Axes are present at Hampton Court as well. The main axis is an east-west canal lined with lime trees extending to three thousand five hundred feet in length (Johnson, para.5). Water from Longford River was diverted in order to create the canal. Three other avenues lined by lime trees accompany the canal (Johnson, para.5). The balance and transition of the gardens creates a visually pleasing atmosphere for their visitors.
Simplicity is a principle of design, which deserves a brief mention solely for the fact that Versailles and Hampton Court are anything but simple. Simplicity of landscape design reduces a design to its simplest form in order to “avoid unnecessary cost and maintenance” (Ingram). The cost of creating and maintaining Versailles was so excessive that workers were sometimes not paid for year afterwards. Much is the same for Hampton Court and its numerous changes over the years. Simplicity, for these two royal gardens, is simply not a factor.
All aspects of design come together on the sites of Versailles and Hampton Court to best display the grandeur and wealth of the palaces. Although they reside in different countries, the landscape designs share much in common as both are of a Baroque influence. During the eighteenth century King Louis XIV spent millions on creating and maintaining Versailles. After Louis XIV’s death the eventual downfall of the French monarch began, but the Palace of Versailles remained standing, and is today open to the public.
As an absolute monarch no longer ruled England at the time of the French downfall, Hampton Court Palace did not run the risk of suffering political blows. It did, however, suffer from personal preferences, but has since been restored to its Baroque style, and is also open for public viewing. It is the events of the French Revolution, the American Revolution, and the Industrial Revolution that have shaped the world into the form which we are now familiar with, but history may still be revisited through the remaining designs of the eighteenth century.
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Green, David. “Hampton Court Palace and Bushy.” Jellicoe 242-244.
Ingram, Dewayne L. Basic Principles Of Landscape Design.
Jellicoe, Geoffrey , et al. The Oxford Companion To Gardens. New York: Oxford
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Johnson, Linda. The Gardens at Hampton Court. < http://www.etsu.edu/
Lablaude, Pierre-Andre. The Gardens Of Versailles. London, Ontario: Zwemmer
Pregill, Philip and Volkman, Nancy. Landscapes in History: Designing and
Planning in the Western Tradition. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold. 1993.
Thompson, I. “French Gardens of the Renaissance.” History of Environmental
Design. 2003. < http://www.apl.ncl.ac.uk/coursework/
Eighteenth Century Landscape Design
Emily Kessler / 100158757