What is Haussmann Architecture?

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Florine Tanner
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Haussmann architecture (or Haussmannian architecture) refers to the Parisian 19th-century style architecture that is still defining Paris. It’s the iconic Parisian style.

Haussmann architecture is characterized by large, elegant buildings featuring stone facades and wrought-iron details. It is the ideal Parisian-style building.

Geschichte of Haussmann Architecture

Napoleon III, a French general who wanted to transform Paris into a modern, light-filled city, began the history of Haussmannian architecture. Georges-Eugene Haussmann was appointed by Napoleon III, a city prefect, but not an architect. He oversaw the radical reimagining Paris between 1853 and 1870. This caused a huge social and civic upheaval, making Haussmann one among the most controversial and famous urban planners in history.

Haussmann created broad avenues and boulevards that were lined with blocks of elegant, stone apartments. This was to realize Napoleon’s vision. New parks, squares, street lamps and kiosks were all part of the renovation.

After 17 years, Haussmann was fired. Haussmann was criticised for making Paris a huge and costly construction site and disregarding its history. He also destroyed the medieval charm of Paris, which has not completely disappeared except in the Marais district. His work had already transformed Paris, and his influence continued through 1910 to the post-Haussmannian era, when many of his stone buildings were decorated with the type of decorative stone or wrought iron work that is most sought after today.

Many Haussmann-designed buildings were demolished in the 1970s to make room for modern tower blocks. In Paris, Haussmann’s legacy is still evident. There are 40,000 Haussmann-built buildings, which make up 60% of the city’s housing stock. Locals and tourists alike still seek out apartments in Haussmann-designed buildings. You can also find Haussmann-style architecture everywhere, from Manhattan’s Upper West Side to Buenos Aires, and even modern China.

The Key Characteristics Of Haussmann Architecture

  • Elegant, large, and imposing buildings with varying sizes and details, but sharing many common features
  • Stone facades
  • On select floors, typically the 2nd, 4th and 5th floors, plain or ornamental black wrought-iron window grills and balconyies are available.
  • Gray zinc Mansard roofs are angled at 45 degrees so that maximum sunlight can reach the streets below
  • The iconic Paris rooftops are symbolized by chimneys, which were originally used to heat the air.
  • The top-floor attic rooms have Dormer windows. These windows can sometimes be connected to tiny balconies. They offer the most beautiful views of Paris.
  • French double windows
  • Large wooden single and double entry doors made with bronze or iron knobs.
  • Many buildings have stone-paved carriage entrances that lead into a central courtyard.
  • Traditional interiors featuring hardwood herringbone or straight plank oak flooring, intricate moldings, millwork, marble fireplaces and inlaid mirrors for the fireplace, as well as French doors and windows

Haussmann Interiors

Haussmann architecture has a reputation for being a beautiful and crowd-pleasing style of architecture that is still popular today. However, Haussmann apartments were designed for another century.

Apartments on higher floors are more expensive and more desirable in today’s real estate market. Haussmann apartments were built long before elevators were common. This is partly why upper floors were less popular, as they had lower rents and ceilings. (Depending on the building layout, some buildings today have retro-fit elevators. They can start one floor higher than the top or end one floor below the top.

Haussmann buildings had ground floors that could be used for commerce and shops. The shopkeeper was often the first to use the second floor of a Haussmann building. It was also used for storage. The third (or second) floor in the U.S. was the noble floor. It was reserved for the elite with the highest ceilings, grandest proportions, and was often used as storage. The sixth floor (the top) was usually reserved for household staff. Sometimes miniature rooms had heating fireplaces and small balconies. Some converted maids rooms, measuring 50-150 square feet, may be found on top floors in upscale Haussmann buildings. They are not connected to water. People often buy the top floor of a building and use it to build larger apartments with more desirable views.

Although Paris’s buildings are still unified from the outside, many homeowners choose to modify their interior floorplans to better suit modern living. Many people decide to remove walls to open up spaces between the living and dining rooms.

The most important modification is to the kitchen placement. Kitchens used to be located in cramped spaces away from the main living areas and near service stairways. This was so staff could prepare food at their fingertips. Most people today want an open-plan kitchen with a large, spacious kitchen. Many homeowners are comfortable with removing walls and old woodwork to create floorplans that suit their current lifestyle.

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