"A village postman from the remote Drome province of southern France, Ferdinand Cheval (1836-1924) spent 33 years creating an "ideal palace" from stones gathered on his daily 32km round. Poorly educated and with no knowledge of architecture, he shaped his surreal palace from daydreams, without help.
Considered a madman by fellow locals (whose descendents live off his legacy today, the palace being a big tourist attraction), Cheval was hailed by artists and intellectuals, from Breton and the surrealists to Picasso. Here was - and is - a work of wholly spontaneous surrealist art, a man's dreams turned into a gloriously abstract work of architecture.The Palais Idéal is overwhelmingly bizarre, its handmade architecture drawing its inspiration from what appear to be sources as diverse as Khmer temples, Swiss chalets, Neuschwanstein castle in Bavaria and Hindu shrines - despite Cheval's lack of learning, books or photographs. Some of the palace looks as if Gaudí had a hand in it, and the petrified fountain could easily be by Dalí. Today, Cheval's lifelong work is a national monument." Jonathan Glancey