The Dufour Pavilion, on which major renovation work began in 2013, opened on 23 February 2016. This new "entrance" to the Palace of Versailles, designed by the architect Dominique Perrault, combines restoration, renovation and modern construction and takes the Palace of Versailles to the level of modernity it owes to its visitors from all over the world (more than 7.5 million in 2015).
After winning the architecture competition launched in 2011, Dominique Perrault redesigned the whole initial sequence of the Palace while still preserving the appearance of the buildings (volumes, proportions and dimensions). The architect is in charge of this functional building project in association with Frédéric Didier, Head Architect for Historic Monuments, and Project Manager for restoration work on noteworthy heritage buildings and structures. The contracting authority for the project was the French Operator for Heritage and Cultural Building Projects (Oppic), in association with the Heritage and Gardens Directorate.
The Dufour Pavilion plays a key role in welcoming the public
The Palace of Versailles blueprint established in 2003 by the Ministry for Culture and Communication includes a large section concerning the improvement of the reception of the public, in particular through the simplification of visitors' entry to the Palace. The final layout is simpler and more coherent. There will only be two visitors' entrances: the Gabriel Pavilion to the north, reserved for groups, and the Dufour Pavilion, its southern counterpart, for individuals. They will leave by the same exit. This layout reconciles the Palace with its own history, since the two pavilions were part of the "Grand Project" of modernisation by Gabriel in the 18th century, designed to be the two entrances to the palace, leading respectively to the King's and Queen's apartments. Their construction, however, which began during the Ancien Régime, was never finished.
The new Dufour Pavilion takes the Palace of Versailles to the level of modernity and quality of services which it owes its visitors. It groups together all the functions for the reception of visitors, with rigorous respect for heritage.
The building now has four principal functions:
- the area below the Princes' Courtyard for services and facilities (toilets, shop etc.) and the exit,
- the courtyard level for reception, security and visitor information,
- 1st floor for a contemporary cafe,
- 2nd floor for an auditorium and related spaces.