Sunday, 17 November 2013

The Château de Bellevue is no more....

The château de Bellevue, Yvrac, in happier times 

There were cries of "foul play" in the little commune of Yvrac near Bordeaux last winter when a fine 18th-century château was inadvertently razed to the ground in three days flat by a gang of Polish construction workers charged only with demolishing an outbuilding. The owner, a Russian plutocrat, who had been conveniently absent at the time, was a little too forgiving and a little too rapid in unveiling plans for a spanking new replica, attempting to smooth ruffled feathers by contracting local firms to do the work.  

The mayor was having none of it;  Dmitry Stroskin had permission only to build a new swimming pool and to renovate the exterior of the 8,600 square-foot manor, "to restore, tidy up and change a few stones".

Suspicions were probably well-founded. According to Stroskin's original French architects, he had begun changing building plans as soon as his permit came through and, more tellingly, expressed doubts about the building's lack of cement foundations. They confirmed that plans for a replacement already existed.  If you look at the recent shots on Google Panorama you can see why Stroskin might have been tempted - the château, which had been hired out as a municipal venue, was clearly in need of considerable work....

Photos by Olivier Boisseau. Panorama / Google Maps
Album date February 2013 (but presumably taken earlier!)

Whatever the truth of the matter, although they are not officially "listed" as Patrimoine architectural, the house and its park are a sad loss.  

 The château de Balac, Saint-Laurent-Médoc
A symmetrical building, with an imposing "imperial" staircase entrance and a 200-capacity reception hall, the house was widely thought to have been designed by Victor Louis, the famous architect of Bordeaux's Grand Théâtre; it certainly bore a strong resemblance to the nearby cru bourgeois château of Balac which is his work. 

The landscaped grounds, with their wooded lawn, still clearly visible on Google satellite view, have also seemingly been reduced to mud. 

Bellevue from the air  -
a ghost on Google Maps
Work on the reconstruction is now suspended pending investigation by the federal prosecutor.

 It is a sorry story, with foreign money as a convenient villain, though maybe the French authorities are slightly to blame for allowing the château to fall into such a state of disrepair in the first place.


The story was covered by all the major papers and news sites.  See particularly:

Daily Mail online, 5 Dec 2012 - pictures of the demolition plus video of outraged locals.

Wine Spectator, 13 Dec 2012 - comments of the French architects.

There is a full and accessible treatment of Victor Louis in:
Allan Braham, The Architecture of the French Enlightenment, p.145-57.

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