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.
Photograph above: Mille Arbres by Sou Fujimoto Architects, Manal Rashdi OXO Architectes, Compagnie de Phalsbourg, Ogic, Morph
Continue reading Paris in the Twenty-First Century
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.
Continue reading Napoleon and Paris at the Musée Carnavalet
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.
Continue reading Stephane Kirkland at the National Gallery of Art
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.
Continue reading Cosmopolitanism in the Culture and Planning of Second Empire Paris
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 Paris: Portrait of a City by Jean-Claude Gautrand
“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.
Continue reading Parc des Buttes-Chaumont
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.
Continue reading A Visit to Napoleon III
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.
Continue reading Time to Transform the Île de la Cité?
How did Regency and early Victorian London influence the design of Napoleon III’s Paris?
We know that Napoleon III lived in London during his exile before returning to France in 1848 and that he was very aware of the urban and social issues of his day. But other than rare instances (the Bois de Boulogne, the Parisian “squares”), there are no direct references to London in the urbanism Second Empire Paris.
At the same time, there is no doubt that the future Emperor’s stays in what was at the time the leading city of the western world played a role in forming his image of the modern city.
Continue reading A Napoleon III-Eye View of London
Construction begins this week on the new Place de la République, a project 150 years in the making.
At 300 yards by 130 yards, the Place de la République is one of the largest squares in Europe. But its lay-out has been a problem that has bedeviled urban designers since Gabriel Davioud was first entrusted with its design in the 1860s.
Continue reading Place de la République