|The Royal Opera is a story made of innovation and collaboration, which was yesterday written for kings and continues today for the delight of everyone.
In the 18th century, – more precisely, in the 1760s – two Visionaries, Ange-Jacques Gabriel and Blaise-Henri Arnoult, jointed their talents and invented the “reconfigurable space” concept. They answered Louis XV’s wish to provide Versailles with a performance hall suitable for different usages: concerts, spectacles, banquets and balls.
Their vision of a dynamic system was a major breakthrough regarding the static architectures of that time. They were outstanding also managers as they could achieve their project despite tremendous challenges: technical performance, especially acoustic performance, matching the prestige of their royal customer; security constraints as the place was intended to receive more than one thousand people, among them princes and monarchs; reduced funding because of years of external wars; overwhelmingly tight deadline: 22 months from the investment decision up to the delivery date required for the Dauphin’s marriage, the future Louis XVI.
We owe Ange-Jacques Gabriel, an architect in the usual meaning of the term, the shape and structure of the place. However, Gabriel was also a system architect, in the contemporary meaning, who was able to conceive an integrated architecture encompassing all the needs and constraints generated by the many usages.
We owe Blaise-Henri Arnoult, a machinist in the usual meaning of the term, but also a born engineer, the systems’ dynamics enabling transformation from one configuration to another in only a few hours.
At last, thanks to these both intelligences, which were able of thinking beyond the differences of views inherent to their complementarity, the invention of the Opera Royal was possible. Such an invention would definitely qualify today as a breakthrough innovation.
The two visionaries developed technological solutions which express the genius of great inventors, and they also managed the project successfully, implementing what is now known as “agile and concurrent methods”. Customer requirements, including those of the king himself, were elicited with the help of mockups. In the same timeframe, the different craftsmen (carpenters, sculptors, lighting specialists …,) integrated directly their expertise into the solution. Of course, the mockups were made of wood and were not 3D numeric models on computers, but the principles of collaborative engineering reformulated in the XXIth century were already applied by Gabriel and Arnoult.
The adventure is now pursuing thanks to the “Château de Versailles Spectacles” team who, reflecting the same tradition, dares to face the risk of creation. Today, the team is reviving forgotten musical scores, for our greatest happiness.