The Paris that we know and love today is an urban planning dream come true with it's beginnings under Napoleon III's rule. The city had remain unchanged since the middle ages and with the Industrial Revolution bringing country dwellers into the city, housing and ancient infrastructures were unable to sustain healthy living conditions. A new order was needed to modernize all aspects of the city: eliminating potential health catastrophes and providing 'contemporary' housing and city planning for the growing population. Hard to believe that this lap of luxury was a place you would want to avoid in the 1800's.
One gentleman in particular to thank for bringing a new life into into this growing metropolis was Baron Georges Haussman. A civic planner, Monsieur Haussman had the good fortune to find himself as an ally and newly appointed Prefect of the Seine under Napoleon III during the Second French Empire. Understanding that much was needed to be done to bring his beloved city to one of glory, Napoleon III gave Haussmann considerable control regarding the new layout of Paris. Following not only his own plans, but those of the emperor as well, Haussmann set to dividing the inner city into north/south districts and annexing the suburbs. He created what we now know as the spiral shell shape that encompasses the city's 21 arrondissements. Haussmann loved symmetry and further divided Paris into a grid essentially eliminating the haphazard development created during the middle ages. The streets we love to walk down today, rue du Rivoli or Grands Boulevards are testament to his creative, romantic genius.
Monsieur Haussman's story is too big for this blog and I will guide you to other sites where you can spend time pouring over his architectural philosophies. My purpose today is to post photos that I found showcasing the change Paris encountered under his control. Before and after photos of the city that are fascinating both as evidence of what was and what beauty exists today.
Quai des Orfèvres and pont Saint-Michel. Part of the Palais de justice.
La rue Censier in the 5th.
La rue Soufflot in 1877 and today. That is the Pantheon in the background. My French lesson took place numerous times at the café with the red awning.
Le boulevard Arago
L'avenue de l'Opera with Charles Garnier's Opera House featured.
Saint-Sulpice church STILL being worked on at the end of la rue du Vieux-Colombier in the 6th arrondissement.
Photo credit: Charles Marville for Lefigaro Magazine