“Paris Haussmann. A Model’s relevance”
January 31 – May 21, 2017
Pavillon de l’Arsenal
21 Boulevard Morland, 75004
By analyzing shape in order to understand meaning, this exhibit and the accompanying book – devised as a contemporary retro-atlas of Haussmannian territory – gives a new interpretation of the city, in its volumes, its time-frames and its usages. From the information acquired through drawing and development in conjunction with technologies and calculations made by the architects Umberto Napolitano, Benoit Jallon and the architectural engineer Franck Boutté, a new urban arborescence emerges, based on contemporary criteria. What is the “walkability” of the Haussmannian urban fabric, compared to other international metropolises? Why is the incredible density of the Haussmannian model so comfortable? What is the energy efficiency of the city blocks and buildings in relation to current standards?
Contiguity, changeability, density, materiality, compactness, full space / empty space equilibrium, diversity of activities and capacities, as revealed in the Paris Haussmann exhibition, invite visitors to reexamine the criteria of contemporary urban design within a system in which performance requirements converse with the enjoyment of living in a place, where resilience would be architecture.
The spatial efficiency of the Haussmann grid results in a high level of irrigation, accessibility, and “walkability.” The accessible portion of roadways, as a public and a mobility space, within a walkable perimeter of 400 meters is 63%, like that of Toledo, a city based on short distances, and of course much higher than in Brasilia, a city designed for motorized movement and long distances. The Haussmann framework is similar to the very rational grid of the Eixample neighborhood in Barcelona, which yields the highest results at 68%. Equally interesting is the fact that the accessibility of the Parisian grid is homogenous; the results vary between 37% and 83% for the different road networks studied, with a typical gap of 6-7, whereas the cities of Amsterdam, Tokyo, London, Manila, or Naples have typical gaps of 10 and higher, which reveals the greater heterogeneity of the accessibility of their urban grid. The trends and orders of magnitude are the same as regards the accessibility of the constructed space. The percentage of effectively accessible constructions within a Paris, Opéra 400-meter walkable radius is 62% of all built spaces in Paris, compared to 66% in Barcelona. Finally, in terms of the number of services accessible within a walkable perimeter, a partial indicator of the degree of effectiveness and accessibility, the values for Paris’ urban fabric are exceptionally high, much greater than those of the other cities we studied.
Methodology and classification
The urban fabric of Paris consists of very heterogeneous blocks in terms of their size and shape. This characteristic, which is the result of the copresence of an old and a new fabric, as well as the priority given to connectivity within the urban development plan make it hard to identify and define a typical block. Every Parisian block whose form is the result of the creation or modification of its surrounding roadway is here considered as a “Haussmann block.” Consisting of buildings constructed mainly between 1840 and 1910, it developed according to several principles that contributed to the perception that users would come to have of the city. The study of all of these Parisian blocks (3,385 in total) led to the formation of a catalogue and classification system. Blocks were categorized under families of polygons with the same number of sides (three to six) and classified in function of their perimeter.
Common denominators for the blocks
To establish a relationship between the size of the blocks and their common characteristics, the analysis used the smallest block, the largest, and an average-sized block for each category. Cases were selected from within each polygonal family to create a representative sample. This was enriched with specific cases that often came from a comparison with the preexisting urban fabric so as to include the exceptions as well. In all cases considered, we took a census of the parcel struc¬ture (the number of parcels and their average size), the relationship between the façade facing the street and the parcel, the density, its development over time, the current number of buildings, and the distribution of empty spaces, as well as their type. The blocks, dif-ferent in their morpholo¬gy, are for the most part similar in their typologies, as they possess identical constituent element