Palace of Light

From Atlas
Palace of Light
Palais de Lumière
UN Building A Southern Lawn.jpg
Palace of Light from the Grand Courtyard
General information
Architectural styleClassic
LocationOdèneville, Odentia
Current tenantsGovernment of Odentia
Groundbreaking26 September 1917
Completed21 December 1925
OpenedAugust 21, 1926 (1926-08-21)
Renovated1968-1972
1999-2004
OwnerGovernment of Odentia
Technical details
MaterialMarble
Design and construction
ArchitectMichal Brecher
Adam Roux
Andre Cruget
Nicolas Sarran
DesignationsNational Treasures Registry

The Palace of Light (French: Palais de Lumière) is the official royal residence of Odentia and its capitol building. Its six main buildings house offices for Odentia’s government and military, as well as the city of Odèneville. The building also contains a 3,000-seat theater and a smaller 500-seat auditorium. It sits at the north end of the Avenue des Lumière and its south facade, facing the Mer Dorée, serves as its terminating vista. The palace grounds are known as the Place d’Odentia and, alongside numerous parks and statues, serve as home to the Kinov Museum, a group of museums that formally include the Royal Art Collection. Also located on the grounds is the International School of the Place d'Odentia, a highly prestigious and private boarding school. The complex is surrounded by a series of ramparts and gun emplacements, which, although available for defensive use, were intended from the start to be largely decorative. These emplacements themselves are now historic sites, and many of the original guns (now in non-functioning states) remain preserved.

The main and original building was originally completed in 1926, with the main annexes being completed through 1937. The most significant expansion was the 1972 renovation that added Building Epsilon to serve as the headquarters for the nation’s military. The building also serves as the official headquarters for various Odentian-backed non-governmental organizations, most notably the Fifty-Star Foundation. Although the Palace of Light serves as the official royal residence, the House of Odene retains residence at the Forteresse d'Odéneville (with offices at the Palace of Light). In 2014, some offices were moved to the Administration Royale building in downtown Odèneville.

History[edit]

Background[edit]

Prior to the establishment of the Palace of Light, official Odentian business was conducted alternately at the Forteresse d'Odéneville and at a small cluster of buildings in the Odèneville city center. However, the spaces, especially at the centuries-old Forteresse, were beginning to show their age, and signs of advanced deterioration had begun to show. Following a 1910 incident in which the roof of the castle's assembly hall collapsed, King Olivier III commissioned the construction of an entirely new capital complex.

Antoine Marrau, then Lord-Mayor of Odèneville, favored a system of gridded and numbered buildings surrounding a large government house. This system was intended to integrate seamlessly within the city's existing infrastructure; security was intended to be handled by a series of street-level checkpoints. However, urban planner Michal Brecher proposed a far more open campus. Brecher's design shared Marrau's large central building, but placed it inside a large park with open spaces and public facilities, bordered on each corner by a circular bastion. Central to Brecher's vision was a terminating vista inspired by Acronia's Champs-Bleus. The government house would sit at the north head of the Rue Augustine directly opposite the Augustine River. Standing on the Pont-Augustine, Brecher envisioned that one could look over the river, down the Rue Augustine to the building's southern facade, or turn around and see towards Liberty Park.

Design[edit]

Brecher's proposal found support in several members of the Conseil du Roi, most notably the Stasnovan-born industrialist Jack Kinov. Precisionist painter Adam Roux, a good friend of King Olivier's, also supported the design. During a public meeting held to address the issue, the citizens of Odéneville showed great enthusiasm for the establishment of a new grand landmark surrounded by parks. Olivier officially approved the project on September 19, 1912, and the government formally acquired the land to be used the next day.

Brecher and Roux were formally appointed the building's designers, though neither were architects by trade. Instead, they established a six-month-long preliminary architectural contest, with the winner receiving a cash prize of ₳1000 (approximately $30,000 in 2019). The first entry was submitted on November 21 by a man named Carlo Tobin; it was rejected by Brecher and Roux as "obscenely phallic". Two designs submitted within one day of each other by Andre Cruget and Nicolas Sarran were selected as the winners. Brecher and Roux greatly appreciated Cruget's layout for the building, while they preferred Sarran's clean marble facade. The cash prize was split between them, and they were both hired by the government as the project architects. Despite initial conflicts, the two developed a working partnership, where Cruget designed the floor plan and the grounds and Sarran interpreted and executed Cruget's vision.

Initial design[edit]

Cruget called for a large court of honor facing the Augustine River where it turns south. The primary building was to house the main administrative center, while the wings housed a theater to serve as a public address and performance space. Similar to the Roman forum, Cruget designed the building to be the center of city life, integrating openly and seamlessly with Brecher's public spaces.

To this end, Cruget envisioned not only a functioning administrative center, but a museum and memorial to the Odentian culture, identity, and armed forces. He designed beneath the Grand Courtyard a long Hall of Honor, terminating in a large crypt for the burial of military heroes, with exhibits honoring the military in adjoining rooms. Cruget proposed exhuming and reinterring some remains from various cemeteries nationwide and was met with much criticism. Olivier vetoed this element of the design, as he intended to build a monument to the nation's armed forces at the conclusion of the Great War, which later became the Altar of Amélie with Cruget and Sarran again the chief architects. Construction

The government of Odentia formally acquired the land for the building one month prior to groundbreaking. The cornerstone, taken from the Forteresse d'Odéneville, was laid by Olivier's son Victor II on 26 September 1917. The marble used in the facade was primarily quarried in Lacblanc and transported in blocks via the Odentian spur of the Pan-Elysian Railroad.

Construction soon became beset by cost overruns and delays. Roux insisted on micromanaging construction of the facade, often delaying work to alter things he felt were not to his standards. Additionally, Brecher's management inexperience contributed to a "paperwork gridlock". Vital contract work frequently stopped because orders were never given and pay was often late. Work at the Odéneville railyard was halted for two weeks in August 1918 because nobody showed up to collect the marble blocks, which had filled the railyard's storage to capacity. In 1919, Jack Kinov was appointed the project superintendent, with Brecher moved to a consultant position and Roux removed almost entirely. Nonetheless, the two continued to contribute to the project and Roux, through his stature as an artist, helped commission many of the sculptures that adorn the Palace today.

The main building was complete by early 1925 and was toured by Olivier III in November of that year. The Palace's first official use came in January of 1926 when Olivier delivered a speech to an assembled group of scholars and clergy. The Palace was officially inaugurated on Federation Day in 1926, though most government agencies had moved in the month before.

First expansion[edit]

In 1929, faulty wiring in the east wing started an electrical fire that killed two clerks and destroyed many legislative documents. The fire was originally thought to be the result of arson; while subsequent investigation disproved this, the incident highlighted significant laws in the Palace security. Victor II authorized the construction of two annexes, designed by Sarran, to house offices for security and government, another library and another amphitheater. Construction started in 1930 and was completed by 1937.

1968 expansion and renovation[edit]

The branches of the Odentian military declined to move their headquarters into the Palace in 1926. Instead, they opted to occupy buildings in downtown Odéneville or nearby fortifications. In 1959, spurred by a stifling inter-branch separation, Victor II established the military headquarters in a series of buildings on Castle Row, ordering the three branches to move headquarters operations there. The Castle Row complex, located in the middle of the city, dated back to 1913, and many buildings had issues with heating, plumbing and space.

In 1966, Murgrivois separatist Alain Florentine detonated a car bomb in the middle of the Castle Row complex, killing 13 bystanders and two air force officers working in an adjacent building. The blast destroyed about 3,000 square feet of the complex. Most of this space was unoccupied at the time. The incident highlighted glaring security flaws in the military, and the resulting security audit led to the capture of Georges Carthé, a Stasnovan spy.

It soon became clear that the military urgently needed a new location, as Castle Row was in the middle of the city, bound on all four sides by streets too busy to cordon off. Additionally, the complex lacked the facilities to meet the military's growing technical needs. The security audit was completed in 1967 and recommended the construction of an entirely new building on the grounds of the Palace of Light. A simultaneous security audit conducted on the Palace itself recommended updated security measures. King Victor II commissioned the firm Romand & Rochefort to design and construct a new building for the military. At the same time, the Royal Engineers spearheaded efforts to enhance security of the palace complex at large.

The renovation on the Palace was completed in 1972 and included CBRN hardening, expanded facilities for security and gendarmerie presence, and the construction of an underground safehouse bunker, among other things. The new 7-story military headquarters, called Building Epsilon, was completed the following year, with an adjoining multiband communications array finished in 1975.

Skylandsea21[edit]

In 1992, the Navy announced Skylandsea21, a roadmap to update, upgrade, and replace outdated infrastructure and military equipment nationwide in preparation for the new millennium. As part of this, the Palace was slated to receive a technology upgrade starting in 1999, completed in 2002. The 1999 renovation also saw the construction of the Visitors' Center and Palace Museum below the Grand Courtyard. Built to Cruget's specifications for the Hall of Honor almost 75 years after his death, the complex was designed as a more orderly and impressive entrance to the Palace. Before the Visitors' Center, tourists had to enter through a service tunnel and walk through active corridors to the main hall. The Visitors' Center was completed in 2004.

Interior[edit]

The Palace of Light consists of a large central building flanked by two perpendicular wings, creating a court of honor. At the ends of these wings are two office blocks added in 1937; two more buildings were added in 1972, connecting to the two wings on the south side of the outward faces. Most of the interior is decorated in the same stripped classicism as the exterior; Building Epsilon, built in the international style, is a notable exception. Central to the building's design is the great atrium located in Building Alpha. Set one level above the main entrance (the government levels are one level below, with the entrance levels acting only as a landing), eight 20-meter tall statues set in rectangular niches and grouped in twos surround the atrium floor. In the center of the atrium is Amélie's Fountain.

Decor[edit]

The Palace of Light contains works from many of Odentia's greatest artists. Although Adam Roux contributed only three works to the project, of which one was original, he introduced many artists to the project, most of whom received one or more commissions.

Amélie's Fountain[edit]

Although not the largest, Amélie's Fountain is considered to be the most important work in the Palace of Light. An original copy of the Federation Compact is buried in the statue's pedestal; thus, the statue is considered in state lore to be the originator of royal and government power, a symbol of Amélie's consent to govern in her image.

Sculpted by Yves Bourdeu, it consists of a statue of Amélie, the national personification of Odentia, on a pedestal in a fountain six meters wide. The statue depicts Amélie seated beneath a waterfall with arms outstretched in a welcoming gesture with an olive branch representing peace one hand and a set of scales representing justice in the other. Planted at her feet in the water is Peter's sword, representing readiness for war.

Amélie's welcoming pose is intended to signify goodwill, while the waterfall represents sky and sea. Amélie is depicted as life-size, in contrast with the great statues that line the atrium. Her human scale represents her humanity and emphasizes that no man is larger than another. In 1967, large white spotlights were installed at the bottom of Amélie's Pool facing upward through the skylight, and have shone every night since then. In his dedication speech, Victor II said the spotlights were supposed to act as a beacon, reminding Odentians to act with Amélie's grace and humility.

Titans of Liberty[edit]

The eight statues lining the atrium were the work of Thierry Haas, and were completed by he and his apprentices in 1925 after nearly a decade of work. The statues depict Auguste I, Victor I, Lady Justice, Pax, a helmeted member of the Ice Guard, an Unknown Soldier, Olivier I, and Robert I.