“The underground galleries are an organ of the great city, functioning like an organ of the human body, without seeing the light of day; clean and fresh water, light and heat circulate like the various fluids whose movement and maintenance serves the life of the body; the secretions are taken away mysteriously and don’t disturb the good functioning of the city and without spoiling its beautiful exterior.” Baron Haussmann
In the late 1800s, under Emperor Napoleon 3rd, Baron Haussman oversaw a revolution in the approach to how Paris was designed, laid out and constructed. Much of what the modern visitor enjoys in Paris today, the boulevards, the vistas the squares and gardens, as well as much of the infrastructure that supports the city, such as the sewer system, was completely remodelled under Haussmann.
At the time, his plans were the subject of considerable criticism, not least because he didn’t really consider the concept of social housing. That notwithstanding, the impact that his ideas had on the lives of Parisians at the time and on how the city is seen, experienced and lived in today was without precedent.
In April 2021, as we continue to wrestle with the ongoing impact of the Covid 19 pandemic; the continuing threat of disruption from climate change; try to re-imagine our cities as sustainable living and working places or level up the experience and opportunities for those living in an urban or rural environment, what or who might emerge as the new Baron Haussman, capable of initiating the kind of radical transformation we need?