The Ideal City in the Mind’s Eye

Claude Nicolas Ledoux-Symbolic Representation of the auditorium of the Theatre at Besançon as seen through the pupil of one eye
Claude-Nicolas Ledoux-Symbolic representation of the auditorium of the Theatre at Besançon as seen through the pupil of one eye

The triumvirate of Utopian Neoclassical architects, Étienne-Louis Boullée, Jean-Jacques Lequeu and Claude-Nicolas Ledoux would have an major influence on Modern architecture in the 20th Century, as well as being hailed by the Surrealists as precursors, particularly Ledoux, who held notably progressive and egalitarian ideals for his time.

The Royal Saltworks at Arc-et-Senans was conceived by Ledoux as the first phrase in the construction of an ideal city near the forest of Chaux. Ledoux thought that luxury shouldn’t just be confined to the nobility, it should also be used in the building of a workshop or a barn. The grandiose buildings were laid out in a circle, houses for workers were palatial and the forges had Doric columns. Unfortunately, but not altogether surprisingly Ledoux had to abandon work on the Royal Saltworks in 1778 before its final completion.

This didn’t deter Ledoux from envisaging ever more audacious and grandiose projects for his ideal city though. All public buildings such as the Pacifere (Temple of Concilation), the Oikema (House of Pleasure) were based on the theory of pure forms; pyramid, cube, sphere, cylinder. Statues would be erected for the sake of their effect on perspective or the casting of shadows.

In 1784 Ledoux was selected to design the Théâtre de Besançon. Among his radical and innovative designs was the introduction of seating for all patrons, (a right previously reserved for the nobility), and the screening of musicians in the orchestra pit.

Claude-Nicholas Ledoux-House of Supervisors Ideal City of Chaux
Claude-Nicholas Ledoux-House of Supervisors-Ideal City of Chaux
Claude-Nicolas Ledoux-Oikema
Claude-Nicolas Ledoux-Oikema (House of Pleasure)
Claude-Nicolas Ledoux-Oikema (House of Pleasure) Detail
Claude-Nicolas Ledoux-Oikema (House of Pleasure) Detail
Claude-Nicolas Ledoux-Farm Guards House
Claude-Nicolas Ledoux-Farm Guards House
Claude-Nicolas Ledoux-Chaux
Claude-Nicolas Ledoux-Chaux
Claude-Nicolas Ledoux-Pacifere
Claude-Nicolas Ledoux-Pacifere
Claude-Nicolas Ledoux-house of Circles-Artists Studio
Claude-Nicolas Ledoux-House of Circles-Artists Studio
Claude-Nicolas Ledoux-Maison de campagne ou Temple de la memoire
Claude-Nicolas Ledoux-Maison de campagne ou Temple de la memoire

 

 

 

 

 

 

32 thoughts on “The Ideal City in the Mind’s Eye

  1. Ledoux has been associated to the utopian socialist Charles Fourier, as his Ideal City could be considered as a model of Fourier’s phalanstery. Moreover, Ledoux worked in the region of Besançon, the town where Fourier was born.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My pleasure Miss Heart… very interesting ideas presented by Ledoux and the other Utopian Neoclassical architects, obsessive and like something glimpses in a dream. Now I have to find something even obscurer, will I ever make it out of the fog?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. We have neoclassical architecture in the US, none so dramatic as the design of the visionaries that you reference, the Capital Building is an example. Wonderful narrative and art. You don’t seem in a fog at all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The American architect Benjamin Latrobe was influenced by Boullee and Ledoux. They were very much paper architects, but what visions! You are too kind, I shall have to start inventing obscure artists soon. That actually isn’t a bad idea. The Dictionary of Imaginary Artists. See I am getting giddy.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Another magnificent architect/artist. I love the enormous spheres. Especially the farm guards house. What a leap of the imagination. A grand structure in a agrarian setting. So visionary. Love the aesthetic. A shame the ideal city didn’t come to fruition. No city planners have that sort of flair (?) any more

    Liked by 1 person

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