The wide avenues, which make the charm of the present Paris, are the fruit of a colossal renovation work that lasted twenty years.
In 1852, the elected president Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte became emperor and adopted the title Napoleon III. Very quickly, he wanted to bring to a successful conclusion to a big project of renovation and embellishment of the French capital.
The next year, he nominated Georges Eugène Haussmann (known as Baron Haussmann), a relentless and methodical worker, Prefect of the Seine.
At that time, the center of Paris had the same structure as it did in the Middle Ages. And the narrow streets were unhealthy. The water supply was difficult, the sewerage system was limited, and the city was regularly ravaged by epidemics of cholera.
The emperor knew that people were poor and could raise barricades to organise revolts. He thought that a facilitated traffic, with broad streets, would allow a real control of the city. The whole project was inspired by what Napoleon II saw in London!
Haussmann destroyed whole areas, drew rectilinear streets, and created the Paris as we know it today thanks to his colossal efforts. His name went down in history.
This article is the first of a series of three. It was written with the help of Clotilde Vanoye, a French architect – www.design-espaces.com
2nd part: The town planning according to Haussmann
3rd part: Haussmann style’s apartments
The map shows (in red) Haussmann’s streetwork between 1850 and 1870