The evolution of Paris

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Shall we build for “rupture” or for “continuity”?

The changing urban landscape of Paris, as presented by two dueling candidates for mayor (in 2014) — Anne Hidalgo and Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet.

Montmarte by Elaine —

The Architectural Sacking of Paris

Author: Claire Berlinski



Both candidates promised to reinvigorate Paris as a dynamic rival to London, rectify housing shortages, and cure the city of air pollution. Both invoked as talismans the words “sustainable” and “ecological.”
Predictably, one of the signature policy disputes between the two candidates arose from a conflict of styles. Hidalgo vowed to promote the construction of high-rises, which she believed necessary for economic competitiveness. Without them, she argued, Paris would become a museum, like Venice. Her campaign promised architecture that would “rupture” Paris from its past. By contrast, “NKM” (as she is called) demurred. The buildings of Paris were historically low in height and classical; there was no inherent relationship between high-rises and economic dynamism; and anyway, Paris’s urban density was already twice that of New York’s. Nor did she favor rupture for its own sake. She proposed instead to turn disused metro stations into swimming pools.
Paris owes its beauty to a balance between variety — provided by the dialects and embellishments of various architects and their patrons — and the continuity of the architectural principles that were believed, until very recently, to be objectively correct and timeless.
What the Romans saw, and what contemporary architects cannot see, was that their new technical abilities need not always be put to use — they could now build without columns, for example, but this did not entail that they should.