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Old Mar 24th 2014, 05:28 PM
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Default Haussmannization: good or evil?

Haussmannization: good or evil?


Boulevard Haussmann in Paris - one of several created by Baron Haussmann in the 1850's and 1860's.

For those of you unfamiliar, the term in the thread title comes from the name of Georges-Eugene Haussmann, commonly known as Baron Haussmann. He was appointed Prefect of the Seine in 1853, by the French Emperor Napoleon III. This nephew of the first Napoleon ordered Haussmann to make Paris "more healthy, less congested and more grand".

Baron Haussmann created numerous long and straight tree-lined boulevards cutting across Paris as well as opening up large open spaces and public squares. As part of this process, strict rules were laid down for common building height, set-backs, roof pitch, floor alignments with neighboring buildings and facades. The result of which has made Paris famous for being one of the most beautiful [big] cities in the world.

Of course, Haussmann's city rennovation project required a massive amount of authoritarian state legal power to do it and involved a large-scale demolition of the heart of medieval Paris destroying over 20,000 houses and relocating as many as 100,000+ people.

Here's some links to the applicable Wiki entries:

Rennovation of Paris

Baron Haussmann

So the question is, is it okay to bulldoze over the legal rights and properties of the citizenry, in effect, destroying history itself, in order to attempt a major improvement in both the beauty and efficiency of the city? These long straight boulevards cutting through the old medieval maze of city streets made for general improvements in traffic flow, public health, policing, fire-fighting as well as law and order (they were called 'anti-riot roads').

It is also to be noted that this enterprise was imposed upon Paris by the Emperor, whether the citizens of Paris liked it or not. The owners of property affected had it expropriated by the state and that was it.

This is just another variation on the old 'does the end justify the means?' type questions, but I think it is a particularly good example of the issue since both sides of the debate are attractive.

So what do you think? Should the state have the authority to impose its will upon the fabric of a city, expropriating property and building whatever it wants in order to 'improve' things?
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