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The National Palace of Queluz: A Spatial Analysis


The National Palace of Queluz was a royal palace of the Portuguese monarchy until their flight to Brazil ahead of Napoleonic troops.  The palace has often been described as the Versailles of Portugal, and to the casual observer this would seem fitting.  However, if you peel back the ornamentation and examine the spatial organization of the palace and gardens it becomes readily apparent that Queluz is distinctly different from other contemporary baroque royal palaces.  Queluz takes many of its spatial cues from Moorish design ideas, and the garden is primarily designed around social spaces.

Instead of being sited in an elevated position to take advantage of views of the surrounding countryside, Queluz was sited in a low depression with the main axis orientated towards a nearby hill (though not aligned to the summit).  The spaces of the garden are compartmentalized, as is seen in Moorish design, where within each space there is a high degree of order, but these individual compartmentalized spaces are disconnected from each other in the overall composition.  These, and other diversions from the baroque, can be better understood when we understand Queluz within its historic and social context.  The palace was originally intended to be an insular retreat away from Lisbon and intrigues of the court, and only after the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 and a subsequent fire at the Ajuda Palace did Queluz become the defacto home to the royal court.  The gardens were designed around social uses and privacy, and not the projection of power that was a primary goal of palatial baroque gardens.

This analysis was presented in detail at the 2013 Annual Conference of the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture and was published in the conference proceedings.  Below are some sample illustrations.