House Of PleasuresADDPMP332
Claude Nicolas Ledoux was one of the earliest exponents of French Neoclassical architecture. The Oikema is the informal title for a ‘House of Pleasure‘, and is a part of his plan for the Ideal City of Chaux. The phallic-shaped house was to be an integral part of the city. The drawings first appeared in L’architecture considérée sous le rapport de l’art, des moeurs et de la legislation, Tome 1, 1804. There, under the heading “Oikema. Fragments d’un monument Grec,” is a text on the utopian brothel.
Claude Nicolas Ledoux’s proposals for a House of Pleasure in Paris and for an Oikéma in the ideal city of Chaux are engimatic projects distinguished by their overtly phallic configurations. Offering humorous anecdotes to less bashful professors, these two brothel projects remain neglected in more serious architectural discussions. I will attempt to demonstrate that the phallic configurations of these plans offer tangible insights into Ledoux’s ideal city, the place of women during the late eighteenth-century and his own ambivalence between monarchy and democracy. Fundamentally, the phallic plan of the Oikéma offers a clue to interpreting the ideal city of Chaux as a fragment of the human anatomy. Responding to the exigencies of the Revolution, Ledoux has dismembered the classical anthropomorphic analogy and replaced it with a hybrid plan caught between monarchical centralization and a more democratic attempt to disrupt the dominant center with a series of satellite developments. Inverting the metaphor of decapitation by dissecting the body from a preexisting head Ledoux nevertheless organizes in his ideal city a confrontation between these two regimes.