Paul I entrusted a talented Russian architect N. Lvov with the task of building a special castle-kind palace for the Prior of the Maltese Order. The Prior Palace was built in the park on the shore of Lake Black. This palace decorated with a slender stone tower and precipitous roofs was made of unique material i.e. compressed earth.
The reception held in Paul's honour in Chantilly, the residence of the Prince de Conde, was unforgettable for Paul. Many park places and pavilions of Chantilly were later reproduced in Gatchina according to the drawings sent from that estate near Paris where the celebrated master Lenotre worked.
The Connetable Square with a 32-meter obelisk, a road, bridges, and sentry boxes leading to the Palace looks like a square in France designed in commemoration of the famous French military officers - the Connetables Monmorancy and owners of Chantilly..
The palace gardens laid out on artificial terraces are designed in a formal style and imitate Italian and French regular parks, decorated with staircases, sculptures and flowerbeds.
The state entrances to the Gatchina park are adorned with stone gates, modeled on Roman triumphal arches.
The theme of Love is also embodied in the park. The charming park pavilion in honour of Venus blends in perfectly with the vast expanses of the picturesque White Lake under the gloomy northern sky. The pavilion situated on the Island of Love and washed from the three sides by the lake seems to be floating on the water. The idea of the Venus Pavilion, created in imitation of antique temples, was also borrowed from the park of the Prince de Conde, but given a new interpretation in Russia.
One more place of elegant French influences hides behind the stone wall of the park near the palace. A simple stone gate with an arch and a mask of the forest spirit invites us to the Sylvia Park.
The initial park plan with its lacework of paths, playgrounds, small ponds and cascades reminded Paul of the similar one in the French estate and the name Sylvia - of the romantic love stories and legends he heard there.
Small surprise-house nests cosily among the trees behind the massive stone portal, "The Mask", not far from the Island of Love. French masters built it using the traditional Russian building material: trunks of the birch tree - the beauty of Russian forests - to decorate the facades, shutters and doors of this intricate park pavilion. The legend has it that Empress Maria Fiodorovna presented the Birch House with its simple exterior decoration and dazzling interior to Paul I "to make her dear spouse smile". The legend has it that Empress Maria Fiodorovna presented the Birch House with its simple exterior decoration and dazzling interior to Paul I "to make her dear spouse smile".
Originally the parks of Gatchina were laid out in a landscape style under the supervision of English masters in collaboration with Antonio Rinaldi. The outstanding architects and gardeners J. Gakket, J. Shparrou, and the Hermgolz brothers fully appreciated the unique beauty of the Russian North that does not strike the eye at first sight. They designed the various natural compositions on the large territory (the total area about 700 hectares): green lawns give way to picturesque groves, interweaving paths lead to the hills and descend to the lakes.
Numerous islands, both artificial and natural, decorate the lakes. The various small wooden, stone, and metal bridges with lacy railings span channels and water labyrinths and connect the islands.
The palace facade overlooking the park is reflected in the mirror of the lake, and its tall towers can be seen from many places of the park.