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Solitude can fire the imagination – Rut Blees Luxemburg

Photographer, Senior Research Fellow at the RCA, living in London

Incarcerated, during the bloody upheavals of the French Revolution, the architect Nicolas Ledoux, was forced to abandon the completion of his manifold building projects for the Ancien Régime. Seemingly forlorn, he created on paper some of the most visionary and fantastical buildings of architectural history. Captivity inspired the architect to even more utopian solutions for his half-built city of Chaux, where his completed factory Saline Royale was now rounded off with imaginary designs including a cemetery resembling a celestial sphere, secluded wooden orbs for the local foresters and a gigantic ‘house of pleasure’, the floor-plan based on the shape of a phallus.

Although these outwardly outlandish and precise designs – birthed from enforced solitude and a fertile mind – were never physically realised,  they continue to occupy architects, writers and artists: as visionary models for thinking about space – external and internal.

Panoptical Sublime, Ledoux, Saline Royale, Rut Blees Luxemburg, 2019