Travelling Through Fictive Spaces: Spatio-temporality in the Text and Images of Claude-Nicolas Ledoux’s Architectural Book

Auteur / Author: 
Kyoko OZAWA (Université de Tokyo, Japon)
Jeudi 25 Août 2011 - 8:30
33-1. Imaginer la ville utopique


In Europe, the 18th century is the epoch of “paper architectures”. One of the most remarkable among them is Claude-Nicolas Ledoux’s L’Architecture considérée sous le rapport de l’art, des mœurs et de la législation published in 1804. It is not merely a blueprint of an unfinished project but a completed work in itself. It offers a virtual visit to a fictive city composed of expansive discourse and images.


Ledoux’s architectural designs captured the attention of many historians and theorists of architecture. During the past thirty years, significant research has been published concerning “space in narrative” in Ledoux and his contemporaries, which is largely based on textual analyses; for example, Anthony Vidler, Béatrice Didier and Malden Kozul. Although the relationships between text and image are a crucial point in clarifying the spatio-temporality of Ledoux’s Architecture, the existing analyses of these two factors are still insufficient.


In this paper, I will focus on the formalistic nature of Ledoux’s Architecture and analyse the nature of his narration, the role of illustrations and especially the significance of the position at which each plate is inserted. This approach should reveal the nature of this volume as an illustrated storybook, as an encyclopaedic arrangement of various kinds of buildings and as a utopian itinerary told by “a traveller”.


The difficulty in analysing Ledoux’s work lies in understanding his narrative, which is often unclear and incoherent. It is composed of different types of statements. This characteristic is partially due to the frenzy of the “cursed architect”, but it comprises the essential part of this volume. Today, this kind of heterogeneous text is often considered “heterotopic”, to borrow the term coined by Michel Foucault. My presentation aims to go beyond this simple reading and to identify the spatio-temporality evoked by text and images.