Having idea of making Paris a modern

Having
spent most of his childhood in exile, Charles-Louis Napoleon Bonaparte first arrived
in Britain on May 10th, 1831, at 22 years of age, having fled both
French and Italian Kingdoms. It is in London that Napoleon indulged his passion
for conspiracies to dethrone Louis Philippe of France. But London is also the
place where the future emperor would witness massive urban transformations, that
would spark his idea of making Paris a modern city. He conspired to become
Emperor, but also dreamt of a new and functional Paris.

 

While
Napoleon plotted in exile, his future Seine Prefect, Baron George-Eugene
Haussmann, would roam around French territory as Secretary General and Sub-Prefect,
to better understand the hardships of the French people. Throughout a 20-year
long journey, Haussmann would leave his native Paris, reaching the most remote
territories of the French Republic, where he would drastically change
cityscapes while improving transportation and infrastructure. Rouen, Marseilles,
and even Alger would be changed to the better by Haussmann. As Napoleon ascended
the French throne in 1852, proclaiming himself Emperor, he would appoint Haussmann
a year later to lead Paris’ reconstruction efforts.

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While
considering historical factors, the purpose of this paper is to understand the
shared values of both figures and evaluate the significance of Haussmann in the
urban transformation of Paris, while assessing how his works reflect the values
of Napoleon III’s era.

 

Paris’
glorious past of cultural, artistic and technical creations saw the capital
full of different styled churches, palaces and private mansions of different
eras sit in no particular order. The majority of working class citizens lived
in the medieval centre of Paris, which was over populated and disease-ridden.
The actual neighbourhood of Place St Augustin, previously called la Petite
Pologne resembled a maze and was infected with cholera (Histoire, 2011). Among
the inadequate dwellings of the centre of Paris, stood the central markets: Les Hales. Trains and carts channelled
food in and out of the central markets with little to no standards of hygiene,
adding to the already congested narrow streets. Scarcity of light and most
importantly, scarcity of clean water hindered the city’s potential growth.

 

Haussmann’s
vision coincided with Napoleon III’s ambitious plans to rebuild Paris. Both
would meet on a regular basis, putting Napoleon’s ideas to paper, while
responding to numerous urban issues that had been identified by Haussmann’s predecessors.
The Emperor dictated the rhythm, setting the requirements for the changes he
had dreamt of.

To
this day, Haussmann remains the face of Paris’ transformation, although the
conception of the plans predated his appointment as Prefect. While finishing
what was started by his predecessor, Jean-Jacques Berger, Haussmann would transcend
orders, sometimes even altering Napoleon III’s initial plans (Histoire, 2011).

 

Haussmann’s
mission, as described by architect and historian Pierre Pinon, was ‘a precise response
to a specific problem: opening up the historic centre of Paris by cutting new
streets’ (Pinon 1999: p279).

Haussmann’s
revamp of Paris consisted of three main réseaux
(networks). He began with the modernisation of the croisée antique
(antique crossroad), which connected the Eastern and Northern train stations (Gare de l’Est and Gare du Nord respectively), and linked them to the Southern train station
(Gare Montparnasse). While creating
an Eastern-Western axis to improve the central markets’ accessibility, the
first network also linked key places of power: The Louvres-Tuileries and the Hotel
de Ville (Royal Palace and City Hall respectively).

The second réseau consisted
in forming transportation networks to connect the inner Paris to the city’s outer
ring roads, previously built by Louis XVIII. Haussmann would achieve this by creating
today’s Place de la Republique, the meeting point of eleven avenues, boulevards
and roads.

Napoleon
III annexed the surrounding areas of Paris on January 1st, 1860,
with eleven new communes being included into Paris: Auteuil, Batignolles-Monceau,
Montmartre, La Chapelle, Passy, La Villette, Belleville, Charonne, Bercy,
Grenelle and Vaugirard.

The
third réseau consisted in grafting the eight arrondissements of the newly annexed
territories to Paris, and erecting new civic buildings for them: schools, mairies and hospitals. Although the ‘new’
Parisians were unhappy, as this annexation translated to higher taxes, most
would soon welcome this idea knowing that their neighbourhoods would also be
developed.

 

When
the first network was well underway, Napoleon III and his prefect had
acknowledged the need to rebuild the city’s sewer and water systems. (Van
Zanten 1994: 204). While enabling the conveyance of clean water towards
Parisian homes and Industries, and the evacuation of waste towards treatments
plants in Clichy, the sewer and water systems were about to revolutionise Paris.
The Prefect would use the road construction works on the surface to implement
drainage systems underground, to cope with the increasing amount of waste
Parisian Industries and homes produced.

At
the end of the 1860′, Europeans acknowledged Paris’ modernisation efforts, and
Parisians started benefiting from Haussmann’s transformations. According to
writer and historian, Jean des Cars Parisians welcomed a forthcoming unified
and organised Paris, in which they would easily roam (Histoire, 2011).

 

After
the inauguration of the new Louvres-Tuileries
in 1857, Napoleon III’s vision slightly changed. Having first instructed Haussmann
to alleviate congestion in Paris, he would soon consider the destruction of
older quarters of the centre of Paris for reasons of public order (Van Zanten
1994: 206). As avenues and boulevards were modified, many began suggesting that
the central power’s will to transform Paris originated from the will to control
Parisians and to prevent further movements of insurrection. Like Nicolas
Chaudun, multiple historians note that only a few alterations to Paris were
made for the improvement of the deployment of troops: the covering of Boulevard
Richard Lenoir and the creation of Boulevard Voltaire. The latter one enabled
troops to rapidly respond to threats in the centre of Paris from their barracks
in Vincennes.

 

The
new circulation systems were coupled with new architectural facades. While
simultaneously modernising the twenty arrondissements
of Paris, Haussmann’s apartment unified Paris. He would promote a serial
architecture, in which a certain number of rules and modules are applied to
each apartment. ‘The striking regularity
of the typical Haussmann building—in the Beaux-Arts manner, its height fixed by
decree depending on the width of the street, with balconies (their depth
regulated) and ornamental ironwork—was achieved with surprisingly vague general
regulations’ (Jordan, 2004).

 

In
line with Napoleon III’s idea to filter Paris’ air, through public parks and squares,
Haussmann would reorganise Paris to have a green space within a 10 minutes’
walk from each Parisian home. Following that decision, the Bois de Boulogne,
the Bois de Vincennes, the Park Montsouris, and the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont
were created on all four ends of Paris. Taking that idea further, Haussmann
would plant thousands of trees throughout Paris, as decorative tools to the
newly built or extended avenues and boulevards.

 

Haussmann
would have unified Paris, reorganized its whole, without drastically changing
its heart. Already scrutinised for his demolition efforts, Haussmann would soon
become greatly criticised for expropriating the modest population that lived in
the heart of Paris. Large new quarters would soon be created to divide the
population by economic status (Van Zanten 1994: 207). Despite the vast projects
of reorganisation, his plans for Paris lacked a fundamental element, social housing.
Concerned by the fate of working class citizens, Napoleon would attempt to
complement that lack by funding the Cité
Napoleon, built
along rue Rochechouart in the ninth arrondissement.

By
the end of 1968 Haussmann’s decline would continue with Jules Ferry’s Comptes Fantastiques d’Haussmann, that unveiled
his financial dealings to get funding for his projects. Most Parisians cherished
the outcome of Haussmann’s transformations for Paris, but when the outstanding
costs of construction were revealed, many began fearing debt, while distrusting
him for his dealings. Having firstly and mainly contributed to Napoleon’s
glory, Haussmann’s image began tarnishing Napoleon’s. Almost seventeen years
after his appointment by Napoleon III to head the Préfecture, Haussmann would be replaced on
January 6, 1870.

 

‘He fixed the shape, the itineraries, the
architecture, and in part the culture of Paris in ways that have shown
surprising vitality for more than a century’ (Jordan, 2004). From the day
he assumed the office of the Prefect of the Seine to the day he was replaced by
Henri Chevreau,

more
than 80 000 workers would dig around 600 km of drainage, build over 40 000
buildings, pierce 64 km of new roads into Paris, while planting more than 80
000 trees. While he was not the instigator of Paris’ transformation, his involvement
remains the greatest. Napoleon III and Baron Haussmann truly believed in the
potential of their native Paris, and understood that it needed drastic urban change
to have it reach its glory. Greater than any of his previous urban planning
roles, Haussmann managed to remodel Paris, in one of the most important urban
transformations in France.

 

The
complexity of Haussmann’s work may not have allowed us to carefully analyse
Paris’ transformation in its entirety, but Haussmann’s significance seems
obvious. The foundations Haussmann laid allowed other architects and engineers
to continue what he had himself inherited from his predecessors. 

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