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View Poll Results: Haussmannization of Paris... good or evil?
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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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Old Mar 24th 2014, 10:31 PM
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Default Re: Haussmannization: good or evil?

Brussels is an interesting city in this respect. In the North you'll find a section of the city that has undergone a similar 'Haussmannization'. That was done much more recently though, in the 1960's, by the most corrupt Prime Minister Belgium ever had (and who shall remain nameless since everyone who names him in a context of any of the myriad of scandals he was involved in gets a barrage of lawyers on his case to this day, even after his death).
In other parts of Brussels you'll find sections that have had an approach of complete laissez faire for decades. The irony is that the most dilapidated and dysfunctional parts of Brussels are precisely these two extremes.
So, Haussmannization is a bad idea since it doesn't even achieve the goal it's intended to achieve.
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Old Mar 25th 2014, 06:03 PM
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Default Re: Haussmannization: good or evil?

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So, Haussmannization is a bad idea since it doesn't even achieve the goal it's intended to achieve.
Yes, I'm inclined to agree with this and for precisely this reason.

I used the Paris example specifically because it is one of the few times such a large and destructive city rebuilding exercise actually achieved the promised goals (a city that was "more healthy, less congested and more grand").

Over here in North America, 'Haussmannization' usually involved bulldozing an old working class neighborhood full of perfectly good housing (usually long narrow streets with row houses) and replacing it with some massive public housing project consisting of high-rise concrete slabs (which immediately becomes an ugly and dangerous ghetto).

Here in Toronto, we have a couple of these. We've just actually bulldozed one them (known as Regent Park, which used to be the old Seaton neighborhood) and in the process of replacing it. Unfortunately, while the replacement project is equally large and much better designed, it still represents a flawed design principle and not likely to achieve any of the project's goals except making the place somewhat less ugly and dangerous than it was before. It is still just a big place to warehouse the poor that that's why these projects always turn out badly. Government planners just don't seem to understand this. Segregation is a dysfunctional way to run a city. Successful cities are those that integrate across religion, ethnicity and socio-economic status. Segregating poor people is just bad public policy, regardless of the architecture.

And yes, I do have a weird obsession with the architecture and design of public housing projects - the only policy area that I know of where Britain and France compete to see who can do it worse! Of course, the Americans have raised it to a fine art beyond any competition. Canada tries hard to emulate the US in this policy area.
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Old Mar 25th 2014, 07:57 PM
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Default Re: Haussmannization: good or evil?

I think there are a few, very select circumstances where eminent domain is appropriate and productive.

Cleveland has the distinction of having the oldest public housing administration in the country. Unfortunately they were for years built with the appearance of an inside out prison. There is much more creative and productive approaches being taken for public housing that don't dehumanize, and hopefully won't segregate, as much.

Is the topic of this thread eminent domain, or public housing, though?

Incidentally there is also a situation currently in Cleveland where a bunch of poor people stand to be displaced so that they can build a road for rich people to get to the hospitals faster. It is dubiously named the "Opportunity Corridor."

However, because they are idiots, people in opposition to the project snagged http://opportunitycorridor.com/ before anybody could blink.

*chuckle*

I'm opposed to the project, at least in its current incarnation.
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Old Mar 26th 2014, 05:51 PM
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Default Re: Haussmannization: good or evil?

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I think there are a few, very select circumstances where eminent domain is appropriate and productive.
That's the problem isn't it? Eminent domain is appropriate and reasonable but only if the result actually achieves the desired goals. Our track record on this issue shows that failure of achieving the goal is rampant. On that basis, the usage of eminent domain to ride roughshod over private property rights seems closer to arbitrary authoritarianism rather than civic betterment.

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Cleveland has the distinction of having the oldest public housing administration in the country. Unfortunately they were for years built with the appearance of an inside out prison. There is much more creative and productive approaches being taken for public housing that don't dehumanize, and hopefully won't segregate, as much.
That's the problem with all large scale housing projects - they always result in segregation and that has lots of follow-on negative effects.

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Is the topic of this thread eminent domain, or public housing, though?
Well, the two are intimately related in any urban context because creation of one pretty much requires the other. But given the general topic, I don't see why we can't discuss both. The Haussmannization argument is limited. The public housing argument is endless.

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Originally Posted by Donkey View Post
Incidentally there is also a situation currently in Cleveland where a bunch of poor people stand to be displaced so that they can build a road for rich people to get to the hospitals faster. It is dubiously named the "Opportunity Corridor."
This is a classic 'Haussmannization' situation where the benefits all go to one class of people and the costs/dislocations all go to another (less affluent) class of people.

The additional tragedy comes when they build the new road and find that two years later, travel time to the hospital is even worse than it is now, meaning that the whole justification/purpose for all the time, trouble, expense and dislocations, was null.

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Originally Posted by Donkey View Post
However, because they are idiots, people in opposition to the project snagged http://opportunitycorridor.com/ before anybody could blink.

*chuckle*

I'm opposed to the project, at least in its current incarnation.
And you should be. I believe that one ought to be highly skeptical of all claims made by developers and/or politicians about the 'expected outcome' of any destruction of urban fabric. These guys have a prediction track record that rivals that of the weather forecasters (but nevertheless, tend to produce profits for private developers who are usually behind these efforts).
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Old Mar 27th 2014, 02:19 AM
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Default Re: Haussmannization: good or evil?

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I used the Paris example specifically because it is one of the few times such a large and destructive city rebuilding exercise actually achieved the promised goals (a city that was "more healthy, less congested and more grand")
May I ask what the purpose was in choosing an exceptional example?
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Old Mar 27th 2014, 06:11 PM
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May I ask what the purpose was in choosing an exceptional example?
1. Because it is, arguably, the single most famous example of large-scale urban demolition for some public purpose.

2. Because it is, arguably, a successful example.

That makes it notable and discussion-worthy. I could have used an example drawn from some Canadian or US city that no one knows about, but it is the principle, not the particular that I find more interesting.

Btw, I do find it odd that no one is willing to defend Haussmann on the basis of the result gained for Paris. Many, many people generally do say that Paris is one of, if not the most beautiful city in the world - and it Haussmann's work that they are inadvertently praising when they do that.
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Old Mar 27th 2014, 07:50 PM
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Default Re: Haussmannization: good or evil?

I've never been there. Though perhaps it is because it demonstrates in large scale the type of thing here on this side we tend to think of as old fashioned and beautiful.
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Old Mar 27th 2014, 11:55 PM
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Default Re: Haussmannization: good or evil?

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Originally Posted by Michael View Post
1. Because it is, arguably, the single most famous example of large-scale urban demolition for some public purpose.

2. Because it is, arguably, a successful example.

That makes it notable and discussion-worthy. I could have used an example drawn from some Canadian or US city that no one knows about, but it is the principle, not the particular that I find more interesting.

Btw, I do find it odd that no one is willing to defend Haussmann on the basis of the result gained for Paris. Many, many people generally do say that Paris is one of, if not the most beautiful city in the world - and it Haussmann's work that they are inadvertently praising when they do that.
Thank you.
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Old Mar 28th 2014, 11:58 AM
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Default Re: Haussmannization: good or evil?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael View Post
Btw, I do find it odd that no one is willing to defend Haussmann on the basis of the result gained for Paris. Many, many people generally do say that Paris is one of, if not the most beautiful city in the world - and it Haussmann's work that they are inadvertently praising when they do that.
Alright, I enjoy a good debate just for the sake of debating To use terminology from my debate team days: I'll take the affirmative.

Keep in mind though, in actuality I find the "ends justify the means" argument to be highly objectionable.

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Originally Posted by Michael View Post
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?
Absolutely the state should have this authority. The efficiency of state imposed city planning is hard to argue with. Specifically, the grid street system that has been handed down since the Roman Empire is a clear example of a state imposed system being more efficient then "natural" city growth and planning. In this particular example, the overall health and wellbeing of the city was clearly improved by these moves. Certainly "housing projects" and similar state renovation programs have proven to be a disaster, but not because of the authority that is granted to the state or because government is completely incapable. Instead, housing projects fail because they use that authority in an bumbling and poorly executed manner.

That leads into the second point: that the "danger" or "damages" here are largely theoretical. Yes, houses were demolished and "history" was destroyed, but the city has been truly improved by these moves (as the article points out). French society has not descended into authoritarianism because of this power. At some point we have to acknowledge the practical gains that have been made over the theoretical fears

Finally, the question is not "should the state have the authority" because the state already has this authority and (historically speaking) always has. Large infrastructure projects have always been predicated on the State's authority to claim land for the greater good. From the time of Roman emperors, when they kicked people out of their homes to renovate Rome, to today, when railroad and highway projects are only built because of that same authority, the state has consistently possessed this authority.
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