15 years after the landmark Paris-Haussmann exhibition at the Pavillon de l’Arsenal, the institution revisits the subject in a radically different way to reveal fresh insights. A more than worthwhile visit, on view until June 4th.
This is an exceptionally exciting time for Paris. Through a raft of bold projects, the city is regaining the ambition and vision that propelled it to the forefront of modernity nearly two centuries ago. Paris is again on a quest to project itself as a leader on the global stage.
The decisive transformation of Paris in the mid-nineteenth century took place under Napoleon III. But his uncle Napoleon, who held power over France and a broad swath of Europe several decades earlier, had his own notable role in the evolution of the city. In an exhibition now in its final days, the Musėe Carnavalet retraces the impact of Napoleon on the city of Paris.
I was honored to have the opportunity to speak last week at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC.
In connection with the wonderful exhibition Charles Marville: Photographer of Paris, I was invited to a join an impressive selection of scholars to take part in a day-long symposium, Old Topographics: Photography and Urbanization in Nineteenth Century Paris. I chose to speak on the Place Saint-Michel as an example of Second Empire Parisian urbanism.
This weekend I am in New York, speaking at Columbia University as part of the Urban History Association’s annual conference. I’ll be discussing the idea of cosmopolitanism as it relates to urban planning in the first years of the Second Empire (1852-1855). An excerpt of my talk appears below.
The spectacular breadth and quality of the iconography spawned by Paris is, alone, a demonstration of the importance of this city in human culture.
Taschen has published an imposing photographic portrait of Paris, bolstered by an excellent text. It is a volume indispensable to anyone who wants a definitive – or as definitive as one can be in the limited space of 572 pages – iconographic recounting of the last 150 years in the life of Paris. Continue reading →
“The transformation of the Chaumont hill into a grandiose park, with viewpoints as varied as they are picturesque, is one of the most surprising changes brought about by the Paris administration since it undertook the renewal of the old neighborhoods of Paris,” wrote the Almanach du Magasin Pittoresque in its review of the major events of 1867.
The Parc des Buttes-Chaumont is certainly the most spectacular of Paris’s Second Empire parks. Due to its location, however, it is not very much visited by tourists. If one is interested in what Second Empire urbanism really meant for Paris – and is at the same time curious about the dynamic neighboring area of Belleville and what it has to offer – one should absolutely leave the beaten path and head to the north-east of the city.
The last few years have seen a flourishing of interest in Napoleon III and the Second Empire. But while nearly one and a half million people a year visit the Hôtel des Invalides, where Napoleon I’s remains are located, only a handful visit the tomb of his nephew.
To reach the final resting place of the man who ruled France from 1848 to 1870, one must go to the town of Farnborough, England, 35 miles south-west of London. There, in a crypt below a neo-Gothic cathedral on the grounds of a Benedictine monastery, lie Napoleon III, his wife, and their son.
The Île de la Cité can appear to be just another timeless part of Paris, untouched for centuries, to be preserved as it is and has always been. In reality, it is a relatively recently remodeled space, one of the least successful of the undertakings of George-Eugène Haussmann while he was Prefect of the Seine. It is, I believe, one of Paris’s major twenty-first century urban planning challenges, one that will play a critical role in signaling what kind of city Paris is to become.