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