Baron Georges Eugene Haussmann (1809-1891), as French prefect of the Seine, carried out under Napoleon III a huge urban renewal program for the city of Paris. During the administration of Baron Haussmann, 71 miles of new roads, 400 miles of pavement, and
During the administration of Baron Haussmann, 71 miles of new roads, 400 miles of pavement, and 320 miles of sewers were added to Paris; 100,000 trees were planted, and housing, bridges, and public buildings were constructed. Elected a member of the Academie des Beaux-Arts in 1867, the year of the International Exhibition in Paris, Haussmann stated, “My qualification? I was chosen as demolition artist” (Memoires, 3 vols., 1890-1893).
Admittedly Haussmann destroyed a considerable portion of the historic city, but the purpose was to tear down the worst slums and discourage riots, make the city more accessible, accommodate the new railroads, and beautify Paris. Long, straight boulevards for parades and for the circulation of traffic could also foil would-be rioters, since the mob could not defend boulevards as readily as barricaded slum alleyways.
Georges Eugene Haussmann was born in Paris. Exceedingly ambitious, he studied law solely with the aim of becoming an administrator within the prefectorial corps. He was appointed prefect of the Seine in 1853.
The instigator of the beautification of
Haussmann began by continuing the Rue de Rivoli as a great east-west link across Paris and by developing the areas of the Louvre and the Halles. He brought a competent engineer named Alphand from Bordeaux to continue the development of the Bois de Boulogne. Other acquaintances were introduced into the administration, notably in the construction of the famous sewers. The sewers, although underground, did not go unnoticed; Haussmann ensured that they became showplaces and even provided transportation for their viewing. One critic cynically considered the sewers “so fine that something really great should happen in them” (Memoires).
Three-quarters of the Ile de la Cite was destroyed to create a central area for the Palais de Justice and police headquarters and barracks. The Boulevard de Sebastopol, beginning at the Gare de lEst, was extended across the Ile to provide a north-south route across Paris. The Gare du Nord was linked to the business district by the Rue La Fayette. Radial roads linked the core of the city to the suburbs. A green belt around the fortifications linking the Bois de Boulogne in the west to the Bois de Vincennes in the east did not materialize.
Haussmann was forced to retire in 1869, having succumbed to his critics, who accused him of “Haussmannomania,” heavy spending, and disrespect for the laws governing finance. One of his last acts for Napoleon III was the drafting of a proclamation for the siege of Paris in 1870.
Georges-Eugene, Baron Haussmann
Georges-Eugene, Baron Haussmann, (born March 27, 1809, Paris, Fr.—died Jan. 11, 1891, Paris), French administrator responsible for the transformation of Paris from its ancient character to the one that it still largely preserves. Though the aesthetic merits of his creations are open to dispute, there is no doubt that as a town planner he exerted great influence on cities all over the world.
Haussmann was the grandson, on his fathers side, of a member of the Revolutionary Convention and, on his mothers, of a Napoleonic general. He studied law in Paris and entered the civil service in 1831 as the secretary-general of a prefecture, rising to subprefect (1832-48), prefect in the provinces (1848-53), and finally prefect of the Seine departement (1853-70).
In this last office he embarked on an enormous program of public works, setting a precedent for urban planning in the 20th century. Haussmann cut wide, straight, tree-lined avenues through the chaotic mass of small streets of which Paris was then composed, connecting the train terminals and making rapid and easy movement across the city possible for the first time. The purpose was partly economic, promoting industrialization by enabling goods and services to be transported efficiently; partly aesthetic, imposing a measure of unifying order and opening up space to allow more light; and partly military, eliminating constricted streets where rebel barricades could be erected. Haussmann also created new systems of water supply and drainage, thereby removing the sources of foul odours. He opened up parks on the English model both in the centre of Paris and at Boulogne and Vincennes, and throughout the city he increased the number of streetlights and sidewalks and so gave rise to the kiosks and sidewalk cafes that enliven Parisian street life. On the Ile de la Cite he demolished most of the private buildings and gave the small piece of land its administrative and religious character. Haussmann also led the construction of the Opera and the central marketplace known as Les Halles (the latter surviving into the 1960s).
While many of the ideas for the changes came from Napoleon III, Haussmanns exceptional capacity for work ensured that the modernization plans, which might have remained idle dreams, were carried out expeditiously. Haussmanns success was furthered by the autocratic nature of the regime under which he served, for this allowed him to raise enormous long-term loans and to use them almost without parliamentary or other control. His handling of public money, however, roused increasing criticism among the liberal opposition, and the advent to power of Emile Olliviers liberal government in 1870 resulted in his dismissal.
Haussmann was a Bonapartist member for Corsica in the National Assembly from 1877 to 1881 but took little active part in parliamentary work. He left an important autobiography, Memoires, 3 vol. (1890-93).