Of all the revolutions that gripped Paris in the 18th and 19th centuries, none so completely changed the face of the city as the architectural revolution directed by city prefect Baron Haussmann. This three-hour walking seminar explores the work of Haussmann and urban planning in Paris over two centuries.We begin our discussion at the Palais Royal, which was constructed in 1781 by the Duc de Chartres as the city's first purpose-built shopping and leisure complex. Today a charming oasis of calm, Palais Royal caused a sensation when it opened, revolutionizing shopping in a city whose narrow, congested, medieval streets were a danger to any pedestrian foolish enough to set foot in them. Palais Royal was also the site of the city's first covered passage, or shopping arcade. This launched a vogue that would sweep the post-Revolutionary city, with over fifty arcades being built between 1790 and 1850. We will wander some of the surviving passages that were not destroyed by Haussmann, and which later became a source of nostalgia for those yearning for a pre-Haussmannian Paris (Walter Benjamin's 20th century encyclopedic "Arcades Project" dedicates over 1000 pages to the topic).
From here, we'll emerge into modern Paris, stepping out onto one of the wide, straight-as-an-arrow "grands boulevards" created during the Second Empire (late 1800s) by Napoleon III and his prefect, Baron Haussmann. While the scale of these changes was unprecedented -- huge tracts of the old city disappeared overnight -- the ideas they implemented were not new. We'll discuss how Haussmann's boulevards were modeled on those created by Louis XIV in the 17th century. As we stroll, we'll discuss the role of these streets as the hub of fashionable Parisian life in the 19th century, providing a backdrop for novelty shopping, theaters, and all variety of entertainment, as well as being a popular place of promenade.Moving on to perhaps the most iconic example of Second Empire urbanism, the Opéra Garnier and its surrounding streets and avenues. Completed in 1875, the Opéra is the jewel in the crown of Beaux Arts architecture in Paris. We will explore in detail the exterior of the building.
Depending on time and interest, our walk may also include a visit to one of the late 19th century department stores, Printemps or Galeries Lafayette, or the Société Generale, with their art-nouveau glass domes, completing the vision of the Haussamannized city as a city of luxury consumption and high finance.
The sites visited on this architectural and urban walking seminar will provide an opportunity to discuss many issues, most notably the change in French social structure following the revolution. The resultant rise of the bourgeoisie in the 19th century and the concomitant development of railways, industry, and capitalism all led to Napoleon III's radical rebuilding of Paris.