France: Arc-et-Senans

After so many Roman amphitheatres, this is a refreshing change. Just have a look at this.

Near the ancient city of Besançon, the Saline Royale or Royal Saltworks – commissioned by Louis XV and built between 1775 and 1779, little more than a decade before the start of the French Revolution – represents an as-yet unrealised idealistic vision of the future and stands as something of a memorial to a utopian community, an ideal society where people would be happy and in harmony with nature.

Near France’s second largest natural forest, it is the creation of Claude-Nicolas Ledoux, the most prolific and original architect of late eighteenth-century France. An advocate of improving society through better urban planning and in finding architectural solutions for social problems, the saltworks were to be the first phase of a new ideal city named after the forest which provided the wood to feed its fires: Chaux.

Acting on the theory that man is a creature of his surroundings, and in order to both facilitate economic production by ensuring the healthiest conditions for the workers, its employees lived around a circular arc reminiscent of a sundial, alongside stables, workshops and office buildings, all centred around the Director’s House. As Ledoux wrote rather beautifully in 1804, two years before his death: ‘The shape is pure, like the curve described by the sun in its course. All is sheltered from the sleep of forgetfulness.’

Although the radical project was never completed, it would inspire other nineteenth-century Utopian socialists to experiment with town planning in order to improve workers’ conditions.

Sadly, few of the constructions Ledoux designed remain. This one is a UNESCO World Heritage site and has been since 1982. Saved from ruin, it now welcomes visitors all year round – some 120,000 annually.

Perhaps you are staying at its hotel, will be dining at its restaurant, or just enjoying its many beautiful and ever-changing gardens. It appears to be another graceful and intriguing place to visit. Enjoy it.

Lastly, hats off to Gérard Drouot Productions, who have provided so much clear and helpful information for all the concerts in France. Here are their latest maps showing where you enter and where you can park.

18 comments

  1. Michèle

    I wish you all a great time at the show in Arc-et-Senans and I hope the weather will be fine (no showers or thunderstroms, please!)

    The visit of Arc-et-Senans is certainly on my to-do list, now.

  2. Emilio

    Very nice and seems intimate too, can’t wait to see some pictures of the stage.

    Hope everyone will enjoy the show and that David and band enjoy the place.

    Love to all!

  3. Alberto pippo

    I was there for the concert… Very nice place as usual…the show was amazing, good sound and atmosphere, hopefully no rain despite weather forecast….the only negative things: too many loud people around (why do they spend their money if not interested????) and the mixer equipment building in the middle of the field and too much closer to the stage, taking out the view (and spaces) for lots of people… But as I said, very nice concert!!!

    I really hope to see David in the very next future!

    • ash

      Thank you for that Michèle. 🙂 Those pictures are great!

      I’ve noticed you and other bloggers providing lots of useful information recently. I’ve read it with interest even though I haven’t been going to those concerts. I thought it was very helpful of you do post it all. I think a lot of people would have found it useful. Thank you. 🙂

      ash

      • ash

        I particularly like picture 29. We should have that on a poster or T shirt. 🙂

    • Hannouresk

      Thank you Michèle, great photos. Finally I have a better idea of this very special venue 🙂

  4. Philippe

    Thank you Mister Gilmour, it was just a perfect and unforgettable moment.

  5. Robert Stone

    I was there, a fantastic show.

    One major complaint though, if venues consider themselves suitable for events for 20,000 people the organization has to be appropriate and adequate. With an event with no public transport at its close just taking 10 euro off every car then leaving people effectively to their own devices after the event and taking over 2 hours to get out of the car park is just not good enough. I suspect the various parties taking the profit though are not very bothered about the inconvenience caused to the customers.

  6. Michèle

    Lastly, hats off to Gérard Drouot Productions, who have provided so much clear and helpful information for all the concerts in France.

    … and Jean-Claude Drouot himself (producer for the concerts in France) was among the 19,000 in attendance at the Saline to see how the organisation worked.

    David chooses where he wants to play, OK, he has good taste, but then, everybody has to deal with all the technical problems, logistics, organisation and all that, it must sometimes be a nightmare, especially when the venue is ‘somewhere in the middle of nowhere’, I mean in deep countryside, in a place that’s not meant to welcome big concerts (it was the first ever), and when it’s – as a UNESCO World Heritage site – protected by tough laws.

    They even had to build temporary stairs passing over the surrounding walls of the Saline (emergency exit stairs and also for security reasons, as we are under a state of emergency) so that they could obtain all the authorisations required and the final feu vert.

    They admitted they had to improve their parking system… (well, in Chantilly too… 😉 )

    So, anyone complaining here won’t get my support. (OK, nobody cares if I support them or not. 😀 )

    La Saline est une rockeuse

    • lorraine

      I was just impressed by how many wine glass symbols there were on the map of the place.

      Vive la France!

      • Michèle

        Philippe Sauter must have been drinking too much of this excellent Arc-et-Senans wine when he wrote the article, as the producer isn’t ‘Jean-Claude’ Drouot (Belgian actor), but ‘Gérard’ Drouot… 😉

        Yes, me too when I wrote my comment… 😀

  7. Maya

    Wow, what a beautiful place for a show! The venues on this tour have been spectacular!

    So now we just have two more in Belgium (?) before a break, then RAH?

    How did this all pass so quickly?

  8. Toontje

    Het was een geweldig concert afgelopen zaterdag op een fantastische locatie.

    Ik heb genoten van zowel het nieuwe als oude geluid van David Gilmour. Hij mag van mij in ieder geval blijven optreden (bijvoorbeeld in de Kuip in Rotterdam).

  9. Julian

    Yes, we got there in my wife’s car. Brilliant trip down with Saturday spent exploring Besançon before moving on to concert. Met a mad German, Ziegfried, and his lovely Romanian wife who live in Switzerland!!

    Really enjoyed the concert and its setting. Can’t believe it has come and gone! Thank you David and all.

  10. Julian Clark

    Forgot to mention.

    My wife and I were merrily coming into the foyer of our hotel to be greeted by the piped/canned music Sunday 24th July. The song ended, don’t know what it was. But imagine our surprise when we heard the four notes from SNCF and then followed by Rattle that Lock!! Well it was the Ibis in Besançon and all the staff were aware of the concert so I suppose it should not have been a surprise.

    • Michèle

      And I read that, before the concert at about 20:30, a train, passing by very close to the Saline venue, used its ‘horn’ (not sure of the word, sorry) to play the four notes of the SNCF jingle in honour of David’s concert.

      I wonder if it’s true, … and if David heard it.