Machines of the Isle of Nantes – Nantes, France - Atlas Obscura

Machines of the Isle of Nantes

Massive puppet-automaton machines created by French artist collective Machines de l’Ile. 


The Machines de l’Ile is an extraordinary artistic project like you’ve never seen before. Born from the imaginations of François Delarozière and Pierre Orefice, it is a blend of the invented worlds of Jules Verne, the mechanical universe of Leonardo da Vinci, and the industrial history of the French island of Nantes. From the website

“A team of machine builders have set up their workshop in the industrial warehouses of the former shipyards, at the heart of the Ile de Nantes. The designers let their imaginations roam from the treetops, the savannah to the ocean depths, building a bestiary of living machines to populate this area under redevelopment.”

The machines themselves are created in “the gallery” a workspace in Nantes former shipyards. Here, machinists work on the Machines in direct contact with the public. Visitors guided by the machinists can even operate the controls.

Perhaps the most famous of the creations of the Machines de l’Ile is the Gigantic Sultan’s Elephant. The massive elephant is a 12-metre high by 8-metre wide, elephant automaton-sculpture which can take “up to 49 passengers for a 45-minute walk.” In the words of one viewer “When the majestic animal goes out for its walk, it is like architecture in motion departing a steel cathedral.. Each time the pachyderm goes out, it is a unique spectacle for everyone to enjoy.”

The Elephant debuted in its home city of Nantes, France, and also appeared in 2006 in London. It can now be visited at the Machines de L’Isle.

Know Before You Go

Tramway Line 1, stop at Chantiers

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