Excerpts from Siegfried Giedeon’s “Space, Time and Architecture”

According to Giedon, what was right with Haussmann was due to the big scale, big planning, and engineering of his work,  what was wrong was the basic unit of Haussmann’s city.

“with shops on the ground floor, a mezzanine floor, three main floors and two attic floors. The three main floors have the same plan. They are apartments intended for upper middle class  tenants. The three windowed bedroom for Monsieur and Madame takes up space at the corner. To its left is a living room, to the right the dining room. Further along to the right are the other bedrooms. There is a nursery which receives almost no light The kitchen and the servants room look onto a narrow light-well. These narrow light-wells are an evil characteristic of Continental dwelling houses of this period and of the years after it as well. The attic floors are the most densely over-crowded parts of the building. Here bed is placed next to bed, in the most confined space possible. For the accommodation of servants, night lodgers and the lower classes generally…. The uniform facade of this house of 1860 covers a living unit in which the most diversified functions of daily living swirl together. Business takes over the ground floor and often encroaches on the mezzanine, in workrooms connected with the various establishments. The three main floors are congested slums. in earlier times the association of production with dwelling quarters was quite natural, but… it is absurd in an age of industrial productionto permit residence, labor and traffic intermingle. 

The dislike of the Parisian apartment houses extends to the total urban context as well. The boulevard becomes

“the endless street… that stretches beyond the range of the eye. [While] the neutral facades and the general uniformity make Haussmann’s enormous work of rebuilding better than any other executed in or after the fifties of the nineteenth century…the most appalling disorder lies concealed…behind the uniform outer walls…The street dominates contemporary birds eye views of the city. The houses which do not front on it have plainly been allowed to spring up in a huddled confusion. Haussmann uses the uniform facade as a kind of wardrobe into which all disorder can be crammed.” 

Giedion, Siegfried. Space, Time and Architecture. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1941. 673-675.


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