Why we love Parisian architecture

By Sergio González | 10:36
Paris in 1889

Paris as Haussman and Eiffel pictured it, circa 1889

There are buildings, from now on ‘monuments’, able to drag millions of tourists from every corner of the world and to define a whole city. And no other place like Paris, which was carried out by the stubborness of two fine gentlemen.

In Paris, the second most-visited city in 2012 according to Master-Card, there are several names you should remember. Obviously, Gustave Eiffel will come easily to your mind. His family was of German origins and during those times wars between France and Prussia (sort of former Germany) were a constant so they shifted their family from Bönikhausen to Eifel, later Eiffel, in reference to the mountains near Gustave’s mother home town between Belgium and Germany. 

Gustave was actually a civil engineer and he soon made his career bridging France with the novelty of rail-way. The iron design of Eiffel’s viaducts soon acquired notoriety and his passion for meteorology and aerodynamics made him the megastructure builder of the 19th century, but also a constant joke for his ‘ugly buildings’, away from intrincated Baroque style, predominant in those times.

Gustave would become a worldwide celebrity after erecting the Tower named after him but, did you know he also designed the Statue of Liberty? The former designer died with the job unfinished and Gustave was hired because of his knowledge of wind stress and structure behavior. He was a thorough man and before shipping it to the USA he had the entire statue built up in his Parisian studio.

Eiffel Tower

Eiffel’s creation; visited by tourist number 250 million in 2010

Georges-Eugène Haussman is the other name you must take with you to Paris; he designed the buildings which we love and expect to see in Paris. But these Haussmanian quarters are not his main input into modern architecture and civil planning.

France was an empire under the rule of the Bonaparte dynasty and Paris a city stuck in the past. Industrial revolution had been going on for some time and Parisian bourgeoisie was eager to spend their new wealth. Napoleon asked Haussman to rebuild Paris and create a new city. David S. Barnes estimated that Haussman urban planning modified 60% of Paris buildings.

Most of Lutetia, medieval Paris, was lost and Haussman is often criticised for that. On the other hand, he was the first person to adapt a city to modern times, opening boulevards and wide avenues for safer streets, better traffic flow and sanitation but also for Napoleon III battalions to fit entirely if needed be; it seems his uncle had lectured  him about rebellions.

Haussman designed the first shop-friendly city, allowing railway into Paris center and planting trees and opening parks everywhere. His remodeling of Place L’Etóile or Place de l’Opéra made the Arc de Triomphe and Opera House the impressive locations they are today and the due match for an expanding empire and economy.

NH Lotti hotel

Hotel Lotti is the perfect example of a Haussmanian building, fit to the fine palate of 19th-century Parisian bourgeoisie

Did you know you can stay in a Haussmanian building, right to the Tuileries Gardens? Hotel Lotti is a proudly a part of NH Collection and the beautiful piece of Parisian art you bear in mind when visiting the City of Lights. Don’t miss the chance to admire the famous roofs and unique lofts of this kind of building, the same ones were Monet or Lautrec used to paint.

Haussman works in Paris set a pattern that soon would be followed by many other cities in the industrial revolution world, such as Chicago, London or Barcelona. These three cities carried out similar urban herculean planning, opening boulevards and parks for everybody to enjoy. Next time you visit Barcelona don’t get all dazzled by Gaudi’s overwhelming creations and take a look at the interesting facades in L’Exaimple quarter, literally the Extension. Locals call them ‘chaflan‘. Buildings have one corner cut flat to create small squares every four blocks.

What do you love most about Paris? 

Photo credit: eagle1effi

Photo credit: May Mah

Photo credit: NH Hotels


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