La Saline Royale – Arc-et-Senans, France - Atlas Obscura

Arc-et-Senans, France

La Saline Royale

The shape of this old salt factory complex was inspired by the course of the Sun.  

The Royal Saltworks (Saline Royale) is located in Arc-et-Senans, near Besançon, in the east of France. It was a famous site for salt production. Both the salt production plants and the workers’ housings filled the property.

Construction on the complex began in 1775 at the request of King Louis XV. Its design was the work of architect Claude-Nicolas Ledoux (1736-1806), who wanted to design an “ideal city” based on Enlightenment philosophy and the symbolic value of geometric shapes. Built in an arc inspired by the course of the Sun, the Saltworks contains 11 buildings, five of which housed workshops and workers. The director’s house is in the center of the site and immediately attracts attention because of its strategic position and size.

The workers who lived on the grounds were almost completely self-sufficient, thanks to vegetable gardens behind their homes. The goal of this self-sufficient community was to enable a rational organization of work, which foreshadows the phalanstère of Charles Fourier.

After the Saltworks was abandoned in 1895, it was left to decay until it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982 and was later restored. Today, it is visited as an architectural complex that sat the crossroads of industrial heritage and the history of social utopia.

The site now holds three museums. The first is devoted to the history of salt, the second is dedicated to Ledoux and his works (many models of his utopian architectural projects are displayed), and the third museum is about the history of the Royal Saltworks.

Know Before You Go

The hours for admission change throughout the year, as does the entrance fee. See its website for details.

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