The Transformation of Paris under Hausmann (1909)

This map highlighting the new streets (in yellow, outline in red) opened in Paris by Haussmann and his successors underscores the extent of this work. Though much has been said about the projects in the city center, the impact of his plan on the edge of the city, in former suburbs that Napoleon III annexed to the city, was equally important. Here he and the landscape architect Jean-Charles Alphand created the Bois du Boulogne and expanded the network of broad thoroughfares designed to support the growth of the city. The Plan of Chicago writes rosily of Haussmann adherence to design principles: “Taking counsel neither of expediency nor of compromise, he ever sought the true and proper solution. To him Paris appeared as a highly organized unit, and he strove to create ideal conditions throughout the entire city. The world gives him credit for the highest success. The people of Paris have always have always supported those who aimed to make their city grand and beautiful.” Then, in words that would justify Burnham own radical plan to obliterate large swaths of real estate in Chicago to make room for Haussmannesque streets, the Plan praises Haussmann’s destruction of the much of the medieval fabric of Paris: “At time [Haussmann] found it less expensive, and also less disturbing, to build a new street through the blocks , rather than to widen old streets; and it was his special care to create diagonal thoroughfares in order to shorten distances, and also to give picturesqueness to the street system by the creation of those corner lots which the architects of Paris have learned so well how to improve.” Among the criticisms of Haussmann that were still current in Burnham’s time were the debts the Paris and France incurred as a result of the city’s redesign. In Haussmann’s defense the Plan offers that it “was Haussmann’s theory that the money thus spent made a better city, and that was a greater producer of wealth. Experience has amply justified his contention. The convenience and beauty of Paris bring large returns in money as well as aesthetics satisfaction.” (Plan of Chicago, p. 18)

 

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Chapman, J. M., and Brian Chapman. The Life and Times of Baron Haussmann: Paris in the Second Empire. London: Weidenfield and Nicolson, 1957.

DeJean, Joan. How Paris Became Paris: The Invention of the Modern City. New York: Bloomsbury, 2014.

Jordan, David P. Transforming Paris: The Life and Labors of Baron Haussmann. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996.

Pinkney, David H. Napoleon III and the Rebuilding of Paris. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1958.

Saalman, Howard. Haussmann: Paris Transformed. New York: George Braziller, 1971.

Sutcliffe, Anthony. The Autumn of Central Paris: The Defeat of Town Planning, 1850-1970. McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1971.

The Transformation of Paris under Haussmann: Plan Showing the Portion Executed from 1854 to 1889,” in Plan of Chicago (Chicago: The Commercial Club, 1909), pl. XVII. HALIC, Ryerson and Burnham Archives, The Art Institute of Chicago. Digital file #80544