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Under the Second Empire, Paris was almost in the same aspect of the Middle Ages: streets were still dark, narrow and unhealthy, some buildings were falling apart and the city was close to break. Paris was also overcrowded and the living conditions in the apartments were alarming. The cholera epidemic touched many people and reached the uptown. The Capital and its citizens needed radical changes.Napoléon III, was aware of the seriousness of the situation and was willing to make Paris a purified and great modern capital with opened areas and suitable for modern transport.

Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte nephew of Napoléon I, became President of the French in December 1852. During his stay in England, Napoleon III had been impressed by the West London: the reconstruction of the Englishcapital after the fire of 1666, the arrival of new architects with different visions but also the technical evolution in London had made this city a benchmark for hygiene and urban planning, and the President wanted to make Paris a city as prestigious as London.

Inspired by the English model, Napoleon III wants to makes radicals changes in Paris and focuses his concerns around the modernizationof the Capital. He appoints the Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann, prefect of the Seine from 1853 to 1869. In his book Le Paris d'Haussmann, Patrice de Moncan, describes Haussmann mission as a way to “aerate, unify and beautify the city”. The thrust of the work is to have better air and traffic flow, in line with the hygienists’ theories, but also in response to the cholera epidemic of 1832.Haussmann uses the pre-existing ideas of his precursor Rambuteau but he systematized his principles in a program of urban reconstruction unparalleled in the world.

Paris before Haussmann suffers, as much as all the major cities of the time, of a lack of a coherent network of urban roads. The king Louis Philippe highlights the lack of hygiene. Rambuteau says in a letter to his king published in hismemoires: “In the mission entrusted to me Your Majesty, I will never forget that my first duty is to give the Parisian water, air and shade”. Rambuteau upgraded the network of sewers and launched the drilling of a 13 meters wide channel, which is a novelty in the center of the capital.

Haussmann urbanized Paris with a consistent pattern: breakthroughs, network, and ventilated traffic. The straightline, called “cult of the axis” in the 19th century, obsesses him. He created Boulevards, straight avenues of 20 and 30 meters larges, lined with trees and stone buildings, linking the strengths of the city, as the Avenue de l'Opéra and the Rue de Rivoli. The prefect gives a new importance to transportations such as trains, by connecting the train stations to main streets. In order to improvehealth through better air quality, following the recommendations of his predecessor the prefect Rambuteau, he arranges a number of parks and gardens all over Paris. To highlight the new and old buildings, he directed great opportunities as avenues and large squares. The most representative example is Place de l'Etoile from where depart twelve avenues including the most famous of all: LesChamps-Elysées. Inspired, major French cities like Marseilles, Lyon and Bordeaux will be influenced by the Haussmann pattern and style.

From circuits of water, modern sewage, avenues, gardens, places to theaters, churches and Train Stations, Haussmann radically influenced the map of Paris but also its architecture… He draws a durable plan of the new Paris. The network of arteries designed by Haussmann isstill the backbone of the urban body of Paris that we know today.

The enormous and radical intervention of Haussmann leaded to a change of Paris architecture. More than 20 000 buildings were destroyed and about 30 000 were built… Haussmannian buildings have a new line, desired homogeneous but not uniform. He hired architects to realize his vision for new buildings. According to the different...
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