For an architectural magnum opus such as Le Palais Ideal its location in the tiny town of Hauterives, just about an hour outside of Lyon, may confuse some; but it is hardly the most surprising thing about this not so humbly named wonder.
Beginning life as a recurring dream in the mind of local postman, Ferdinand Cheval, this peculiar citadel may have prevented a fair few letters being delivered over the course of its creation – a period spanning 33 years in total.
Upon tripping over a rock on his rounds and noticing its strange appearance, Cheval began to form ideas of a fortress, pulling inspiration from various architectural, spiritual and even philosophical sources that borrowed from a number of different religions and crossed a multitude of countries. He began building, with very little experience, at first forming a waterfall, then caves, columns and, as he progressed and learned the trade, complete rooms were formed. In 1912, after 10,000 days of toil, the monument was complete.
From a distance, Le Palais Ideal resembles an elaborate sandcastle on an enormous scale; extravagant in both detail and size. On closer inspection, you will notice the infinite treasures and messages woven into every nook and cranny – from decorative insignias inspired by Hindu temples, to Roman emperors, to the elongated chiselled torsos of almost alien-like creatures. The more attentive may even notice the inscriptions depicting Cheval’s life, left by the architect for the world to remember him by. One very special, if not belated, delivery.