History of the Oriental Park

Bandeau infos
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The 29-hectare park, at the beginning of the twentieth century, was a part of the ownership of the Castle Colbert.
The castle was bought in the late nineteenth century by a Cholet industrialist , Mr. BERGéRE. At the request of the owner, architect Alexandre MARCEL restored the interior and arranged the surrounding landscape.
Between 1899 and 1913, he created an eastern area with a strong Japanese design,
at the rear of the castle, around the river.
 
Parc 1900

Having married the daughter of the owner, he was a frequent visitor to Maulévrier and with meticulousness and patience, he gradually developed what has become the Oriental Park. He installed a pond, fed by the river (La Moine) and planted many exotic plants.

Khmer elements are reproduced from moulds of the 1900 Exhibition in which he had participated. Alexander MARCEL died on June 30, 1928. His wife lived in the Castle until 1945.
From this period, the park was converted into agricultural and forest farming and progressively planted with trees up to 1980. After 40 years, the 29 ha of the current ownership were completely laid fallow, the walks completely overrun with brushwood and instead of the major alleys of the past remained walks of about 1 meter wide. Works (lanterns, bridges, pier, temple, pagoda...) were in ruins or had even disappeared.

 

 
Pont rouge ancien

In 1976, the property was sold and divided into three parts: the castle with its outbuildings and the garden, the college acquired 2 ha to build a sports ground, the SAFER a public organization for the rural arrangement, bought the remaining 29 hectares.

The town council of Maulevrier bought the park in 1980 and the park was listed, in the same year, as the sites. An association was created to ensure the management and the maintenance of the park. Using documents, photographs found and other evidence, its restoration began. Originally called Association Castle Park Colbert, the association took the name Oriental Park in 1985. These were the first volunteers of the association who undertook major work within the park.

 

In 1987, Japanese professors from the horticultural universities of TOKYO and NIIGATA recognized the 12 hectares of the classified site as Japanese- gardens inspired of the period EDO (XVI-XIX centuries).

Since that date, major projects have been started and are still continuing today. The park is now recognised as the biggest Japanese inspired park in Europe and is a pilot project in Europe for the quality of its restoration and enhancement.
These projects, the work and activities are carried out by an association (Act 1901) made up of volunteers, a permanent team of professionals and apprentices.

 

Alexandre MARCEL

Marcel A

Architect of Paris, he was a recipient of numerous international awards and competitions.
In the late nineteenth century, Alexandre MARCEL became enthused by the oriental fashion of the time, and in particular by Japonese architecture.
In 1899, Alexandre MARCEL, was in Paris, rue de Babylone, where he completed a decorated hall for the Japanese director of "Bon Marché" (now since 1931 cinema "La Pagode").
That same year, he married Madeleine BERGERE and for his new family, around the castle Colbert, he developed a garden, with an orchard and a vegetable garden in " a French style". On the banks of the river "La Moine" whose waters are now kept back by a dam, he started a garden, which he called a "Japanese landscape ".
At the Universal Exhibition in Paris (1900), Alexandre MARCEL was responsible for the implementation of three pavilions: those of Cambodia, Spain and that of the sea-transport company called the "Panorama du Tour du Monde".

At the same time, King Leopold II of Belgium, who had purchased the Japenese Tower, asked Alexandre Marcel to rebuild his property in Laeken, in the north of Brussels, where it still remains. He then ordered a Chinese lodge with curved roof. This was the beginning of the international and royal career of Alexandre Marcel. The king later asked him to build the royal racetrack of Ostende and to restore his castles (Ciergon and Bulge in Belgium). Alexandre Marcel was presented to Baron Empain who ordered plans for a princely and modern city in the north of Cairo, Heliopolis. Between 1908 and 1911 Alexandre Marcel built, among others, the Hindu palace.

 
Exposition Paris 1900

This panorama comprised four buildings, the highest was a Japanese tower with multiple roofs. The pavilion of Cambodia, a temple in the classical style of the country, was at Trocadero. At the top of an impressive staircase protected by stone lions was a huge room decorated with Buddhist sculptures.

Alexandre Marcel was a regular visitor to Maulévrier and developed a Japanese landscape garden, in the town, with architectural pieces repurchased at the closing of the exhibition.

In 1911 the Maharajah of Kapurtala, principality of Punjab at the foot of the Himalaya Mountains, gave Marcel, an order for a palace that he wanted in a classic French style, surrounded by gardens in the spirit of Le Nôtre.

Alexandre Marcel went over to Japan in 1913 to work on the construction of the French Embassy in Tokyo. As the war was declared, this project could not be completed. In 1924 he published about Orientalism and architectural projects: « orientalisme et architecturales exécutés et projetés » . Two days after the inauguration of the last building in July 1928 (Monuments to the Dead of the Fayette squadron in the Saint Cloud Park), Alexandre Marcel died at his desk.

 
 

Symbolism

In the pagoda garden, the flow of water can be compared to the life cycle.

In this garden a group of rocks represents the mountain from which flows a head symbol of the birth. From the source to the pool, a small vivid stream evokes childhood, the pond evokes the period of doubt and indecision of adolescence, followed by the cascade symbolizing the physical and intellectual changes of this period.
To reflect the problems of adult life, the stream which follows is meandering and the water is running, symbolizing active life. Finally, the central pond in the garden, the lake, represents old age and retirement, a calm and serene period, very important if we take into account the size of the lake compared to other periods.

The Islands of Paradise are there to symbolize life after old age and death. As the lake bottom is not visible, it can be compared to the representation of immortality and eternal life.

 

The vegetation is rich with many species, composed of plants spring blooming, summer flowering or taking interesting colours in autumn, and perennial plants.

In this way, all seasons are marked and there has been over the years a "transformation" of the garden, which symbolizes the different stages of life.

Spring Flowers : birth, youth (the camellias, rhododendrons, azaleas).

Summer Flowers : maturity, adult life (catalpas, seringats)

Autumn Flowers : the rich colours of autumn symbolize the wealth of knowledge acquired throughout his life (maples of Japan, nandines, larch of China).
The falling leaves symbolize death.

The persistence of winter : immortality or life form before a new life (coniferous, laurels, aucubas).