Georges-Eugene, Baron Haussmann, commonly known as Baron Haussmann, was responsible for the renovation of Paris under the rule of Emperor Napoleon III. Before Haussmann’s renovation and urban development of Paris, similar to the situation in England, there was a dire need of cleanliness and advanced infrastructure between 1853 and 1870. Napoleon III trusted Haussmann as the central architect and administrator to change Paris and reinvent it as one of the central economic hubs of the world.
Renovation of Paris
As Paris in the 1850s was overcrowded and infested with diseases and crime as a result of unhealthy neighbourhoods, officials under Napoleon’s rule understood and saw this situation as an opportunity to rebuild and renovate Paris. The streets were also very narrow at the time with the widest street being only two meters wide. At the time, London was going through a similar situation due to the industrial revolution. It was similar throughout Europe.
Haussmann saw this situation as a way to create wide boulevards and avenues, new parks and squares, and as a means to beautify Paris and it’s neighbourhoods with many fountains and greenery. One of the main aspects that Paris is still known today because of Haussmann’s renovation, is its wide boulevards and avenues. Hausmann rebuilt Paris with 12 meter wide streets or larger, which became an absolute example for future renovation of Paris and a great attractions for other cities including tourists.
Such architecture gave ample space for people and citizens of Paris to walk through the streets and experience the streets through their own first hand senses such as walking, seeing and touch. It was not a luxury to walk on the streets as the boulevards were not appropriately built before Haussmann’s times. It was a common sight to see garbage and dirt on the street, including animals which can now be seen in the developing world.
Haussmann also rebuilt the outer areas around buildings and was also responsible for many rebuilds of important buildings such as his apartment type building architecture which were famous at that time and can still be seen in Paris to this day. He used completely different fabric and material to build the buildings at this time so that they are sturdier and last longer than the commonly used brick or wood materials. One of his most famous wide streets is called ‘rue de Rivoli’ which served as an example for future buildings and streets in Paris. It was an exemplary architecture and renewal, as Paris was one of the few cities that had such wide boulevards and streets at that time. Haussmann also renovated the water pipes and sewage system of Paris, which were mostly installed underground so that it doesn’t affect the health and wellbeing of the citizens.
This can be understood through Haussmann’s own words, as he wrote:
“The underground galleries are an organ of the great city, functioning like an organ of the human body, without seeing the light of day; clean and fresh water, light and heat circulate like the various fluids whose movement and maintenance serves the life of the body; the secretions are taken away mysteriously and don’t disturb the good functioning of the city and without spoiling its beautiful exterior.”
Many European cities copied Haussmann’s street grid and architecture as it very much improved the hygiene and health of the city of Paris. Napoleon III was concerned about Paris’ hygiene and citizens’ rights in the city, which led to Haussmann drastically changing the entire feeling and experience of the city. Haussmann’s ideas were so renowned and appropriate to the city’s rebuild, that his concepts were adopted by future architects until late 1900s, even after he was dismissed because of opposition from other political parties. The current street plan and appearance of Paris that can be experienced today is thought to be mostly the result of Haussmann’s renovation and his ideas for Paris’ renovation in 1800s.
Critiques and Other Opinions
There were many critiques of Haussmann’s Paris, particularly political and social issues. It is known that there were a lot of social disruptions during the renovation of Paris. Thousands of people had to relocate where they lost their houses and lands. There was a dramatic increase in rents and economic output at that time and during the Second Empire in Paris. Today, Paris is also currently one of the most expensive cities to live in, but many people think that the economic growth and opportunities in Paris was created by Haussmann’s architecture.
He was critiqued for not providing enough low income housing and for displacing low income people from their homes and businesses. He demolished approximately 19,730 buildings but built more than 30,000 new buildings which were more economically progressive and stable architecture. Haussmann was also blamed for the class centric Paris where the rich and poor areas were divided and there was seclusion and segregation that came with monetary benefit. Haussmann faced many criticisms from political people and parties which led to the downfall of Haussmann’s urban development plans and many wars led to the end of Napoleon III empire.
However, many of his supporters argue that Haussmann’s architecture and renovation of Paris provided far more positive aspects for Paris in comparison to the negative aspects. Overall, his renewal improved the infrastructure and health and wellbeing of the citizens.
In conclusion, Paris’s infrastructure and landscape today is largely the influence of Haussmann’s architecture. Many architects followed his model and many even changed his model to make Paris a central economic hub of France. Many parts of Paris and engagements in Paris have also changed during Haussmann’s times but snippets of his renovation still remains embedded in Paris. The positives and negative effects, would be better understood by local Parisians and historians who have studied Paris in depth and locals who experience the city on a daily basis.