PARIS, AS WE KNOW IT TODAY. HAUSSMANN'S RENOVATION

Hi, guys! This week I would love to start with some history of Parisian appearance that we know today. Contemporary art and all this stuff is marvellous and cool, but. There are still interminable number of inspiring things to discuss. And also, being away from Paris (I moved to Normandy for this period) and talking about it, reminds me those delightful walks we used to have…

Place du Théâtre Français: rain effect, Camille Pissarro, 1898, oil on canvas

Every time we visualise Paris we complete the image with massive but airy beige buildings, accompanied by romantic balconies and long narrow windows. Yes, yes. I already see you imagining you «French-croissantcafé» breakfast on the one of this balcony. Anyway, never stop dreaming, it’s free. I am talking about Haussmann style buildings which came as a result of an enormous renovation of Paris during the second half of the XIX century. 

It was a necessary, the city was too crowded and unhealthy, but it was also a desire of Napoleon III to mark one more time his position and power. With the prefect Georges-Eugène Haussmann they planned the «reorganisation» of Paris, which was full of tiny, messy streets at that time. A lot of boulevards and avenues were constructed, such as the Boulevard Haussmann which brings us to the Galeries Lafayette. As well as one of the longest street in Paris, rue de Rivoli, the one on the left side of the Louvre parallel to the Seine. After visiting England, Napoleon decided also to make more green zones, as a result, we have the parc Monceau, the Parc des Buttes Chaumont and others. These novelties inspired parisiens to walk more, enjoy the city and get the aesthetic pleasure. Later we gonna call such people flâneurs, strollers.

But, my article is more about buildings. These beautiful sand colored elegant boxes have its’ special organisation. There are 3 classes of Haussmannian buildings: the 1st emplies four-story constructions, often richly decorated, with sheds in the yard and the fifth service rooms’ floor; the 2nd is usually five-storied plus service rooms upper and also there are service staircases; and the 3rd one has the same height than the previous class but appartements are tinier and there are no service staircases inside or balconies. There is no commerce on the ground floor in high-class, bourgeois buildings and they never exceed six floors.

The ground floors, rez-de-chaussée (RDC), and the first are usually occupied by the commerce. The seconde used to be the most important with richer balconies and window frames because, at the time, there were no elevator and riches should not have been strained, lol. The third and the forth levels are the most classical with French windows and later individual balconies. Long running balconies identify the fifth floor which is not really «noble» but balances the aesthetics of the facade. The last floor was reserved for the service rooms which keep the name les chambres de bonne, now usually with a kitchenette and a shower in the room and a shared toilet on the floor.

From 1853 until 1927 the Haussmann's renovation of Paris had been taking place. This project was based on the idea to give more air and open space to the city, to connect the different parts and make it more admirable. Contemporaries did not really enjoy the dust and dirt. But. Today it is us who take pleasure in these cityscapes, personally, I melt in these latte houses shrouded in haze. Marvellous! 

Photo: surikovaolga.ph