Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann


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French Préfect of the Département of the Seine from 1853, he directed the improvements of the City of Paris during the Second Empire of Napoleon III (1852–70). His models were those established by Henri IV (1589–1610), Louis XIV (1643–1715), Napoleon I (1804–14), and the late-C18 type of Classical layout involving straight avenues meeting at circular spaces (rond-points), while his brief was to make Paris a capital-city suitable for an Imperial power; to modernize it for an expanding population and the needs of industrialization; to solve the problems of traffic (especially by connecting the railway-termini by means of wide streets and boulevards); and to create vistas of Roman grandeur terminating in monumental buildings. In a mere 17 years of wholesale clearance and rebuilding Paris got nearly 100 miles of brand-new streets, thousands of buildings, over 4,000 acres of parks (see Alphand), nearly 400 miles of sewers, and means by which millions of gallons of clean water flowed daily to the city. He encouraged modern methods of construction, such as the use of iron and glass by Baltard and others, and he managed to ensure the erection of a homogeneous Classical Renaissance Revival urban fabric. His Mémoires (1890–3) are a valuable record of his career and ideas, while under his patronage several monumental works on the history and architecture of Paris were published, including Histoire générale de Paris, Paris dans sa splendeur, and Promenades de Paris (1867–73). Some critics have been harsh about his destruction of old buildings and whole quarters, while others have seen his work as inimical to the urban proletariat. Nevertheless, he created an elegant and beautiful city, laid out on principles established at the École des Beaux-Arts, which can still be admired, and his systems of streets worked well until excessive numbers of motor-vehicles created such immense problems of traffic-jams and pollution from the 1960s. His work was influential, especially in France and the USA, and had a profound effect on the planning of Vienna.

Chapman & Chapman (1957);Gaillard (1977);Haussmann (1890–3);Lavedan (1975);Loyer (1987);Malet (1973);Middleton & Watkin (1987);Pinkney (1958);Reau et al. (1954);Saalman (1971);van Vynckt (ed.) (1993)

Subjects: Architecture.

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