Wide boulevards flanked by trees, stately buildings, and wrought iron balconies. The signature buildings of Paris: Haussmann Apartments. Who does not dream of a Parisian apartment along one of the Parisian boulevards with a boulangerie at the corner of the street?
The monumental beauty of Paris, as we know now, has been largely the work of Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann. On behalf of Napoleon III, this city architect designed a completely new street plan in the 19th century. In just 17 years, Paris was transformed from a medieval city into a modern capital.
Today I will share a short history about the Haussmann apartments.
The Signature Buildings of Paris: Haussmann Apartments
Although the plans were controversial, Haussmann’s vision contributed undoubtedly to Paris’s contemporary charm. He invented a mix of winding streets. How big the vision of Haussmann was, is perhaps still the most visible on Place Charles de Gaulle nowadays. In the middle of the square you see the Arc de Triomphe. From here, 12 candle-lined boulevards enter the city. The form explains why the square is still known under the old name ‘Place de l’Étoile’: Square of the Star.
Who was George Eugène Haussmann?
Georges Eugène Haussmann was a French state man (1809-1891) who made career during the Second Empire. He collapsed since 1848 on the side of Napoleon III. In 1853 he was appointed as the prefect of the department of Seine, with the task of ‘giving Paris air to a complete smithing and decorating’. He would wear that function for seventeen years and was appointed a Senator and elevated to Baron in 1857, a title granted to all Senate representatives. In 1867 he was also elected as a member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts (Source: Wikipedia)
Problems in Paris
In the nineteenth century, Paris had a bad reputation. Paris was dirty, dark and overpopulated. The neighborhoods between the Louvre and the Hotel de Ville had a population density of one person per three square meters. Since the Middle Ages, the street plan has hardly changed. But while the infrastructure of the city barely changed, the population grew explosively. In 1801 there were about 500,000 people in the city, in 1851 there were already 1,053,000. During these days, there were a lot of epidemics in the city.
The renewal of Paris
Chaos, bad hygiene, and insecurity, that was Paris in those days. After the French revolution, Napoleon Bonaparte made a start to rebuild the city. He started with Rue de Rivoli, from Place de la Concorde, along the north side of the Louvre. However, he did not go beyond the Louvre.
Plans under Napoleon III
The situation was untenable. Napoleon Bonaparte cousin was elected as a president after the 1848 revolution. He instructed to improve the situation in the city and started to finish his uncle’s work. He extended the Rue de Rivoli but the work went very slowly. His plans were a part of the city council’s unwillingness. After proclaiming himself an emperor, Napoleon III set aside the Paris prefect and looked for someone who shared his vision of the future of Paris.
Emperor Napoleon III found a member of baron Haussmann and appointed him as a substitute for the former prefect. Haussmann had to air the city, connect the different parts, and finally, the city became more beautiful. Under imperial supervision, Haussmann had much more freedom than his predecessors and he went on to work. It became one of the largest urban renewal projects seen in the world!
Haussmann’s plan influenced the entire city. The narrow streets with the tall narrow houses had to be made for large apartment blocks in a uniform style. He designed a completely new street plan. The narrow winding streets and alleys changed into wide, straight avenues and boulevards. New streets were constructed according to geometric patterns and connected to the city’s main buildings and squares. Trees were planted along the boulevards. Haussmann introduced a completely new sewage system under the new boulevards. In 1927, construction workers finally finished the Boulevard de Haussmann.
Do you want to read more about this subject? Tatiana de Rosnay wrote a story about this Parisian transformation “The House I loved”