The Haussmann renovation of Paris

La Déclaration des droits de l’homme et du citoyen of 1789 is a demine text that emerged from the French Revolution. It details an ensemble of the fundamental rights of citizens and the conditions of how these rights ae applied. Ironically, article 17 of the declaration legitimized the movement of expropriation of the inner city by the Haussmann renovation of Paris.
« La propriété est un droit inviolable et sacré. Nul ne peut en être privé sans une juste et préalable indemnité .» Article 17 [1]


For many at the time it may appear logical to argue that removal of population was a normal casualty of modernization and that modernization is a natural process of society. Prior to the Haussmann renovations, many recognize that Paris needed major changes. The citizens of Paris lived in crowded and unhealthy medieval Faubourgs. The roads were narrow and filthy. There was a lack of sewage infrastructures, garbage elimination and potable water proved to be the perfect breeding grounds to epidemics. Haussmann’s plan was to address all these issue as well as to give the city of Paris a modern and esthetic re-vamp.

Many viewed the Hausmmann renovation style contributes to the beauty of the Capital. The architecture of the buildings, their uniformity and the straight line, grid like aspect of the city woulds charm Parisians and visitors and make a modern and attractive city.


This opinion was not necessarily shared by Haussmann contemporaries who, denunciated the monotony of the architecture. The corruption in the financing of the work also cast a shadow on the Haussmann plans. The Second Empire and Haussmann critique, Jules Ferry, produce a series of successful pamphlets accusing the prefet Haussmann to have overspent the budget for the renovations and left the city of Paris indebted. The author cleverly named his pamphlet “ Les comptes fantastique D’Haussmann” a twisted salute to Offenbach’s opera “Contes Fantastiques d’Hoffmann” the story of a man with a fundamental love for Art who gives appearance of reality to mythical creatures.



Les fabuleux contes d’Haussmann opera fantastic of Jacques Offenbach that inspired Les comptes fantastiques d’Haussmann a satire by Jules Ferry (1868).

Furthermore, the renovation of Paris skyrocketing prices of the housing in the downtown area, which prior to Hausmann was home to the working class. Those people, unable to pay their rent were forced to exile on the periphery of the city untouched by the renovation. The removals therefore created a social segregation of the classes.


Haussmann is also accused of hiding under social and hygienic preoccupations a repression project more reminiscent of an authoritarian regime.
The Hausmann renovation has had a lasting impact on the Parisian society. It divided public opinion and the consequences and motivations can still be discussed as having a profound influence on contemporary contexts.



3 thoughts on “The Haussmann renovation of Paris

  1. You did a great job of showing the other side of Haussmann Renovation. I feel like studying these cities as utopian examples makes for great comparison, but also makes them more difficult to criticise since they gloss over the failing aspects.

  2. Although Haussman did cause a lot of social change within Paris through his renovations he did fix a lot of the issues in updating Paris. Paris needed many serious upgrades to keep up with other European capital cities. Haussman was able to complete all of these upgrades, and turn Paris into the beautiful city it is today. Although it did come with social change, such as the moving out of the working class from the downtown core. The most expensive places to live in any large city is always the downtown core, or areas close to it. This social change however is demonstrated in many large cities, and is something that happens over time, and would have eventually occured in Paris. Haussman simply acted as catalyst to increase the speed of this movement.

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