Georges-Eugène Haussmann, commonly known as Baron Haussmann (French pronunciation: [ʒɔʁʒ øʒɛn (ba.ʁɔ̃ ) os.man], 27 March 1809 – 11 January 1891), was the Prefect of the Seine Department in France, who was chosen by the Emperor Napoleon III to carry out a massive program of new boulevards, parks and public works in Paris, commonly called Haussmann's renovation of Paris. Critics forced his resignation for extravagance, but his vision of the city still dominates Central Paris.
- 1 Life
- 2 Haussmann's works
- 3 See also
- 4 References
- 5 Further reading
- 6 External links
Origins and early career
Haussmann was born in Paris on 27 March 1809, at 55 rue du Faubourg-du-Roule, in the neighborhood called Beaujon, in a house which he later demolished during his renovation of the city. He was the son of Nicolas-Valentin Haussmann (1787-1876), a Protestant, and a senior official in the military establishment of Napoleon Bonaparte, and of Ève-Marie-Henriette-Caroline Dentzel, the daughter of a general and a deputy of French National Convention, Georges Frédéric Dentzel, a baron of Napoleon’s First Empire. He was the grandson of Nicolas Haussmann (1759-1847), a deputy of the Legislative Assembly and of the National Convention, an administrator of the Department of Seine-et-Oise, and a commissioner to the army.
He began his schooling at the collège Henri-IV and at the lycée Condorcet in Paris, and then began to study law. At the same time he studied music as a student at the Paris conservatory of music, for he was a good musician.
He was married on 17 October 1838 in Bordeaux to Octavie de Laharpe, also a Protestant. They had two daughters: Henriette, who in 1860 married the banker Camille Dollfus; and Valentine, who in 1865 married Vicomte Maurice Pernéty, the chief of staff of his department. Valentine and Pernéty divorced in 1891, and she married Georges Renouard (1843-1897).
On 21 May 1831, he began his career in public administration; he was named the secretary-general of the prefecture of the Department of Vienne at Poitiers; then, on 15 June 1832, he became the deputy prefect of Yssingeaux. Following that post he became deputy prefect of the Lot-et-Garonne Department at Nérac on 9 October 1832; of the Ariège Department at Saint-Girons on 19 February 1840; of the Gironde Department at Blaye on 23 November 1841; then the Prefect of the Var at Draguignan on 24 January 1849, and then Prefect of the Yonne Department on 15 May 1850.
Haussmann was presented to Napoléon III by Victor de Persigny, his minister of the interior, with the recommendation that he was exactly the man the Emperor needed to carry out his renewal of Paris. Napoleon made him prefect of the Seine on 22 June 1853, and on 29 June the Emperor gave him the mission of making the city more healthy, less congested and more grand. Haussmann held this post until 1870.
Rebuilding of Paris
Commissioned by Napoleon III to instigate a program of planning reforms in Paris, Haussmann laid out the Bois de Boulogne, and made extensive improvements in the smaller parks. The gardens of the Luxembourg Palace (Luxembourg Garden) were cut down to allow the formation of new streets, and the Boulevard de Sebastopol, the southern half of which is now the Boulevard St Michel, was driven through a populous district. Additional, sweeping changes made wide "boulevards" of hitherto narrow streets. A new water supply, a gigantic system of sewers, new bridges, the opera house, and other public buildings, the inclusion of outlying districts – these were among the new prefect's achievements, accomplished by the aid of a bold handling of the public funds which called forth Jules Ferry's indictment, Les Comptes fantastiques de Haussmann, in 1867 (a play on words between contes, stories or tales – as in Les contes d'Hoffmann or Tales of Hoffmann, and comptes, accounts.)
A loan of 250 million francs was sanctioned for the city of Paris in 1865, and another of 260 million in 1869. These sums represented only part of his financial schemes, which led to his dismissal by the government of Émile Ollivier. After the fall of the Empire he spent about a year abroad, but he re-entered public life in 1877, when he became Bonapartist deputy for Ajaccio.
His work destroyed much of the medieval city. It is estimated that he transformed 60% of Paris's buildings. Notably, he redesigned the Place de l'Étoile, and created long avenues giving perspectives on monuments such as the Arc de Triomphe and the Opera Garnier.
For his work, Haussmann received many honours (see below), he was however never formally ennobled. In later life, he nonetheless became known as Baron Haussmann. According to his memoirs, Haussmann's use of the title baron was based on his elevation to the Senate and to an 1857 decree of the emperor's that gave Senate members the title of baron; his memoirs further stated that he joked that he might consider the title aqueduc, (a pun on the French words for 'duke' and 'aqueduct') but that no such title existed. However, the Dictionary of the Second Empire states that Haussmann used the title of baron casually, out of pride as the only male descendant of his maternal grandfather, Georges Frédéric, Baron Dentzel, a general under the first Napoleon. This use of baron, however, was not official, and he remained, legally, merely Monsieur Haussmann.
Haussmann had been made senator in 1857, member of the Academy of Fine Arts in 1867, and grand cross of the Legion of Honour in 1862. His name is preserved in the Boulevard Haussmann. His later years were occupied with the preparation of his Mémoires (3 vols., 1890–1893).
He died in Paris and is buried in Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris.
Rebuilding of Paris
Haussmann was hired by Napoleon III on 22 June 1853 and given the assignment of rebuilding the center of Paris, which had become seriously overcrowded, unhealthy, and where the narrow, winding streets were congested with traffic. A cholera epidemic in 1848 had resulted in twenty thousand deaths. Over the next seventeen years, Haussmann rebuilt the sewers, built a new aqueduct and reservoir to bring fresh water to the city, tore down the old neighborhoods on the Île de la Cité and replaced them with government buildings and a hospital, and built new boulevards to bring light and air and easier movement of traffic to the center of the city.
Haussmann's plan for Paris inspired some of the most important architectural movements including the City Beautiful Movement in the United States. In fact, renowned American architect Daniel Burnham borrowed liberally from Haussmann's plan and even incorporated the diagonal street designs in his 1909 Plan of Chicago. Cities like London and Moscow also have Haussmann influences in their city plans.
Historian Shelley Rice, in her book Parisian Views writes that "most Parisians during [the first half of the nineteenth century] perceived [the streets] as dirty, crowded, and unhealthy . . . Covered with mud and makeshift shanties, damp and fetid, filled with the signs of poverty as well as the signs of garbage and waste left there by the inadequate and faulty sewer system . . ." (p. 9). For these people, Haussmann was performing a much needed service to the city and to France.
How ugly Paris seems after a year's absence. How one chokes in these dark, narrow and dank corridors that we like to call the streets of Paris! One would think that one was in a subterranean city, that's how heavy is the atmosphere, how profound is the darkness!
- —the Vicomte de Launay, 1838 (as quoted in Rice, p. 9)
It should be noted, however, that the people who suffered most from the medieval living conditions were often exiled to the suburbs by Haussmannization, since slums were cleared away and replaced with bourgeois apartments.
Criticism of his work
Haussmann was honest, but he spent 2.5 billion francs on rebuilding Paris, a sum that staggered his critics. Jules Ferry and other enemies of Napoleon alleged that Haussmann had recklessly squandered money, and planned poorly. They further alleged he had falsified accounts. While Napoleon had hired Haussmann, the political attacks were so intense that he forced Haussmann to become a scapegoat, hoping his resignation would satisfy the bourgeois parties which had become increasingly angered during the economic depression of the late 1860s.
Haussmann's plans, with their radical redevelopment, coincided with a time of intense political activity in Paris. Many Parisians were troubled by the destruction of "old roots". Historian Robert Herbert says that "the impressionist movement depicted this loss of connection in such paintings as Manet's A Bar at the Folies-Bergère." The subject of the painting is talking to a man, seen in the mirror behind her, but seems disengaged. According to Herbert, this is a symptom of living in Paris at this time: the citizens became detached from one another. "The continuous destruction of physical Paris led to a destruction of social Paris as well." The poet Charles Baudelaire witnessed these changes and wrote the poem "The Swan" in response. The poem is a lament for, and critique of the destruction of the medieval city in the name of "progress":
Old Paris is gone (no human heart
changes half so fast as a city's face)…and memories weigh more than stone.
There used to be a poultry market here,
and one cold morning… I saw
a swan that had broken out of its cage,
webbed feet clumsy on the cobblestones,
white feathers dragging through uneven ruts,
and obstinately pecking at the drains…
Paris changes . . . but in sadness like mine
nothing stirs—new buildings, old
neighbourhoods turn to allegory,
Haussmann was also criticized for the great cost of his project. Napoleon III fired Haussmann on 5 January 1870 in order to improve his own flagging popularity. And Haussmann was a favorite target of the Situationist's critique; besides pointing out the repressive aims that were achieved by Haussmann's urbanism, Guy Debord and his friends (who considered urbanism to be a "state science" or inherently "capitalist" science) also underlined that he nicely separated leisure areas from work places, thus announcing modern functionalism, as illustrated by Le Corbusier's precise zone tripartition (one zone for circulation, another one for accommodations, and the last one for labour).
The debate about the military function of Haussmann's boulevards
Some critics and historians in the 20th century, notably Lewis Mumford, argued that the real purpose of Haussmann's boulevards was to make it easier for the army to crush popular uprisings. According to these critics, the wide boulevards gave the army greater mobility, a wider range of fire for their cannon, and made it harder to block streets with barricades. They argued that the boulevards built by Haussmann allowed the French army to easily suppress the Paris Commune in 1871.
Other historians disputed this argument; they noted that while Haussmann himself sometimes mentioned the military advantages of the boulevards when seeking funding for his projects, it was never the main purpose. Their main purpose, according to Napoleon III and Haussmann, was to improve traffic circulation, provide space and light and views of the city landmarks,, and to beautify the city.
During the suppression of the Paris Commune, the boulevards played no important role. The Communards were defeated in one week not because of Haussmann's boulevards, but because they were outnumbered by five to one, they had fewer weapons and fewer men trained to use them, they had no plan for the defense of the city; they had very few experienced officers and there was no single commander, with each neighborhood left to defend itself; and they had no hope of military support from the outside of Paris.
- Ildefons Cerdà who designed the 19th-century extension of Barcelona called the Eixample neighborhoods.
- List of urban planners
- Situationist International
- Walter Benjamin's The Arcades Project
- Robert Moses, New York planner with whom Haussmann is occasionally compared.
- David Harvey, Paris Capital of Modernity, especially the introduction and prologue.
- http://www.culture.gouv.fr/documentation/joconde/fr/decouvrir/zoom/zoom-haussmann.htm - Joconde - visites guidées - zooms - baron Haussmann, 2012-03-05
- Patrick Camiller, Haussmann: His Life & Times and the Making of Modern Paris (2002) ch 1-2
- David H. Pinkney, Napoleon III and the Rebuilding of Paris (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1958; paperback ed., 1972) ISBN 0-691-00768-3.
- Haussmann's Architectural Paris – The Art History Archive, checked 21 October 2007.
- (French) Baron Haussmann, Mémoires, trois tomes publiés en 1890 et 1893. Nouvelle édition établie par Françoise Choay, Seuil, 2000. See also l'exemplaire de Gallica.
- Le Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann (Biographie) (French)
- Maneglier, Hervé, Paris Impérial (1992), Armand Colin, Paris.
- Pinckney (1957)
- Charles Baudelaire, Les Fleurs du Mal: The Complete Text of The Flowers of Evil, Richard Howard, trans., © 1985, D.R. Godine.
- Mumford, Lewis, 'The City in History: Its Origins, Its Transformations, It's Prospects (1961)
- Rougerie, Jacques, La Commune de 1871, (2014), p. 115-117
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press
- Carmona, Michel, and Patrick Camiller. Haussmann: His Life and Times and the Making of Modern Paris (2002) 505pp
- Pinkney, David H. Napoleon III and the Rebuilding of Paris (Princeton University Press, 1958)
- Pinkney, David H. "Money and Politics in the Rebuilding of Paris, 1860-1870," Journal of Economic History (1957) 17#1 pp 45–61. in JSTOR
- Richardson, Joanna. "Emperor of Paris Baron Haussmann 1809-1891," History Today (1975), 25#12 pp 843–49
- Weeks, Willet. Man Who Made Paris: The Illustrated Biography of Georges-Eugene Haussmann (2000) 160pp
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann.|
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- "Georges Eugène Haussmann" from French language site Insecula
- Georges-Eugène Haussmann at Find a Grave