An Extraordinary Tale of Two Cities: Paris Before and After Haussmann


One of the most important urban reform initiatives in history was the Haussmannization of Paris, also known as the Second Empire restoration of Paris. Prefect Georges-Eugene Haussmann was designated by Napoleon III to supervise the conclusion of this extensive urban planning project, which was carried out in the city of Paris between 1853 and 1870. The project’s goal was to update the city and make it more aesthetically pleasing, functional, and hygienic. This endeavour allowed the city to be transformed from a mediaeval maze of winding alleyways into the broad boulevards and public areas that are present today.

The Haussmannization of Paris was a difficult project that involved redesigning the road network, setting up new sewage and water systems, and creating new parks and public spaces. This article will overview of the history of pre-Haussmannization Paris and need of the Haussmannization, as well as Haussmann’s Plan, the city’s transportation infrastructure, sewage system, and building facades, as well as the societal impacts and outcomes from Haussmannization.


Paris’ renovation was one of Napoleon III’s primary concerns. He wanted to create a London with lots of open space. In addition, it came about as a result of the need for more efficient housing, wider streets to prevent riots, and sewer system building to stop the spread of illness. Baron von Haussmann, the Seine’s prefecture, was the author of Napoleon’s dreams. He constructed the wide avenues and stunning vistas that make up the Paris of today.

Georges-Eugene Haussmann was given the job of leading the reconstruction of Paris by Napoleon III in 1853 with the goal of modernising the city and bringing it in accordance with Second Empire ideals. A huge budget and basically limitless power to seize land, demolish structures, and construct new public spaces and roads were given to Haussmann. He set out to create a brand-new modern metropolis that was more appealing, hygienic, and functional. Over the course of the next 17 years, Haussmann’s enormous urban renovation initiative would transform Paris into a modern city.

Pre-Haussmannization Paris

Pre-Haussmannization Paris
Photographer Unknown

Before the Haussmannization, the streets of Paris were a tangle of clogged, dirty, and disease-ridden places.  The small, winding lanes were not intended for the expanding population and were regularly clogged by vehicles and pedestrians. Parisians used the Seine River or the streets as waste dumps because of the city’s inadequate sewage infrastructure, which resulted in an offensive odour and the spread of diseases like cholera.

The city was vulnerable to fires due to a lack of fire protection measures and the use of flammable materials during building. The city’s buildings were shoddily built and prone to crumbling, and its infrastructure was outdated. The city’s packed streets and subpar living conditions made it difficult for the government to maintain order, and riots and uprisings were frequent. Additionally lacking in public places, the city was dominated by crammed, decaying structures.

Need of Haussmannization

The city’s mounting issues in the middle of the 19th century were what led to the Haussmannization of Paris. In order to transform Paris into the modern metropolis we know today, the Haussmannization project was undertaken in the middle of the 19th century. Overall, Paris was in severe need of modernization and repair.

Haussmann’s Plan

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A major renovation of the city took place as a result of Haussmann’s Plan. It aimed to create a city that was more sensible and efficient. The Paris plan of Haussmann was built on a few basic principles. He first intended to create a network of wide boulevards that would allow for more open traffic flow within the city. Additionally, he wished to swap out old, unhygienic buildings for more modern, attractive ones. In order to give the city’s buildings a more cohesive and organised appearance, he wanted new construction to be created in conformity with a set of universal architectural standards.

In addition, he planned to build a large number of public areas, like parks and squares, to provide the populace of the city some much-needed space. New water supply and sewage infrastructure were planned as part of the concept.

According to Haussmann’s plan, a large portion of the city would be expropriated and destroyed, particularly in the centre where congested traffic was caused by small streets and densely populated buildings. A network of broad, straight boulevards that cut through the city were constructed by Haussmann and his team of engineers, connecting significant sites and creating a more effective transit system.

Road Network

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The development of the new road system was one of the most important components of Paris’ Haussmannization. Engineers working for Haussmann created a network of wide, straight boulevards that sliced through the city, improving traffic flow and facilitating government law enforcement. The purpose of the newly constructed boulevards was to link the city’s important attractions and to create a more logical and practical city plan. Additionally, these new boulevards had streetlights, benches, and trees to improve the atmosphere for both automobiles and pedestrians.

Sewage System

The construction of a brand-new, state-of-the-art sewerage infrastructure was an essential part of Haussmannizing Paris. Inadequate and outdated wastewater infrastructure in the city contributed to unsanitary conditions and disease outbreaks. Haussmann’s plan called for the construction of a vast network of underground sewers to carry waste out of the city and deposit it elsewhere. This new system was put in place to replace the previous one, which used open gutters. The improved sewage system provided a great contribution to public health and cleanliness by decreasing the spread of disease in the city.

Photographer Unknown | Source:

Building Façade

Under Haussmann’s plan, the city’s structures were also supposed to have a more cohesive and structured appearance. It also required changing the exterior of the buildings. To do this, he created a set of architectural guidelines that new construction had to adhere to. Paris’s dilapidated buildings that flanked its twisting streets were demolished and changed with more aesthetically pleasant and hygienic ones.

The new buildings constructed during the Haussmannization era were required to feature ornamental facades, balconies, and broad windows, primarily on the second level, and to be at least five storeys tall, with a constant height and style. A neoclassical façade was added to the newly restored city. Shops are located on the ground floor. The city’s regularity gave the impression that it was more appealing and well-organized.

Photographer Unknown | Source:

Social Impacts and Outcomes

The Haussmannization, a profound social change in Paris, took place. Paris is now a modern, efficient, and clean metropolis thanks to the initiative. The city has a new, modern appearance thanks to the construction of a new road network and the modification of building exteriors. Thanks to the project’s new parks and public spaces, the city’s residents now have much-needed green space.

Haussmann insisted he would not compromise in his convictions. He expelled the poor from the city by destroying the areas where they lived. The Haussmannization had various unfavourable effects as a result. Around 350,000 people were forced out of their homes as a result of the construction of the new boulevards and the destruction of the old structures, especially those who lived in slum regions. It became more difficult for certain people to purchase homes in the city due to the higher pricing of the new structures. The upper class also demanded nicer residences in the city’s heart.


In the middle of the 19th century, Paris underwent a huge urban change project known as the Haussmannization. The project’s goal was to build a city that was more contemporary, effective, and hygienic. According to Haussmann’s Plan, the road system had to be reorganised, a new sewage system had to be built, building facades had to be renovated, and new parks and public spaces had to be built. The initiative had important societal effects and results. The Haussmannization of Paris continues to be a crucial lesson in urban architecture and planning despite its numerous shortcomings.

The project served as an example of how urban planning may be used to create aesthetically pleasing, functional cities that meet the needs of their residents. Additionally, it illustrated how crucial careful planning and collaboration between the public and private sectors are to accomplishing such goals. After undergoing the Haussmannization process, Paris emerged as a beautiful and useful metropolis that serves as a model for modern urban design and architecture.

In conclusion, urban planning cannot be successful unless both the functional and aesthetic aspects of the city are developed. In addition to serving as a transit corridor, the road aids in bringing the public’s impression of the city together.