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Franche-Comté has inspired many architects over the years, among them major names such as Vauban, Bartholdi, Ledoux and Le Corbusier. They have left behind a rich architectural heritage, including a number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Vauban, an eminent military architect during the reign of Louis XIV, built around one hundred strongholds in France. Franche-Comté was no exception. Traces of his genius can be seen in 4 tourist sites in Franche-Comté: Château de Joux and Fort Saint André in Salins-les-Bains, and above all the two key works represented by the Citadels of Besançon and Belfort. The first of these ranks as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the second is enhanced from the interior by a fantastic sound and light display in its Main Underpass.
Known for having designed New York’s famous Statue of Liberty, Auguste Bartholdi laid his stone in the heritage of the region. In honour of the city’s resistance during the siege of 1870-1871, Bartholdi erected a monumental sculpture made from pink Vosges sandstone: the Lion of Belfort, also known as Bartholdi’s Lion. Sculpted into the foot of the Citadel, this symbol of Belfort's courage and sacrifice has been listed as a historic monument since 1931.
In Haute-Saône, in the village of Ronchamp, is Notre Dame du Haut Chapel, designed by Corbusier. Enchanted by the unique location and unobstructed view over Ballons des Vosges Nature Park, the artist created a modern and unusual building. Also known as the Chapel of Light, Ronchamp Chapel has become a major construction in contemporary art.
In 2011, this globally renowned site was renovated by the architect Renzo Piano, who completely redesigned the entrance to the site and the Clarisses Convent adjacent to the Chapel.
A famous Utopian, Claude Nicolas Ledoux dedicated his visionary and creative genius to architecture. One of the greatest works of his prolific career is unquestionably the Royal Saltworks at Arc-et-Senans. Considered a true masterpiece and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this royal plant was designed by Ledoux as the centrepiece of an ideal city.
Another remarkable building Ledoux also left to Franche-Comté is Besançon Theatre, built to plans which at the time were considered revolutionary due to their modernity.
"We're passing through France. I'm an architect, and I was really keen to seen Ronchamp again, having visited it over twenty years ago. The new reception building really struck me, and to tell you the truth I was a bit disappointed, because I felt that by transforming the chapel in this way into a major tourist site it would lose its soul and its intimacy. But in fact after the visit I was very happy, and I found all the serenity of the site to be intact. Ronchamp is not really architecture, it is almost like sculpture, or "sculptural architecture". And Renzo Piano's development remains discreet, it follows the curves of the levels, it's perfect."