January 8, 15, 22, 29
Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
How did Paris – arguably the world’s most beautiful city – become Paris? While its spectacular palaces, churches, squares, boulevards, and panoramas are a tribute to the vision and sustained efforts of its many kings, emperors, and presidents to improve their capital over the past 1,000 years, the most dramatic changes to the historic center of Paris occurred in the 17th and 19th centuries.
This lecture series focuses on the two kings and one emperor whose building works most transformed the urban landscape of the City of Light and concludes with the changes wrought by the governments of the Third through Fifth Republics over the past 150 years.
The Paris of Henri IV (1589-1610) – January 8
Henri IV, the first Bourbon king and the first great urban planner of Paris, transformed his capital during his reign. Unlike other kings, he did not just build royal palaces – though he did build the Waterside Gallery connecting the Louvre and the Palais des Tuileries and draw up his Grand Dessin for the development of the Louvre that served as a blueprint for his successors – and he built no churches. His projects included the Pont Neuf, Place Dauphine, Place Royale (now Place des Vosges), Hôpital Saint-Louis and Île Saint-Louis – all of them Parisian icons.
The Paris of Louis XIV (1643-1715) – January 15
Under Louis XIV, France became the most powerful country in Europe, permitting Louis to demolish its medieval wall and create Europe’s first “open city.” He constructed the Louvre’s Cour Carrée and then opened up Paris in all directions, building huge hospitals at the eastern and western ends of the city, outside the former wall, and laying out the route for the future Avenue des Champs-Elysées. As the British historian Alistair Horne put it, “Louis XIV inherited a city of brick and left it marble.”
The Paris of Napoleon III (1851-70) – January 22
Napoleon I started the monumental task of transforming Paris into a modern city, but it was his nephew Napoleon III who finished the job after 20 years of Grands Travaux carried out by Baron Haussmann. Napoleon III annexed 11 surrounding villages, doubling the surface area of Paris and enlarging it to its present boundary; built the straight and wide boulevards and avenues and the large squares that characterize Paris today; completed the Louvre project as first envisioned by Henri IV 250 years before; and put in place the current system of 20 arrondissements.
Modern Paris (1870-Present) – January 29
While most histories of the City of Light stop with the Grands Travaux of Napoleon III and Baron Hausmann, this lecture covers the past 150 years of the evolution of the urban landscape of modern Paris, focusing on the buildings of the Belle Époque, the Expositions Universelles of 1889 and 1900, the major demolition projects undertaken between the two World Wars, and the modernization programs of Presidents Pompidou and Mitterrand.
Russell Kelley is the author of a monograph on the evolution of the urban landscape of Paris, including 10 historical walking tours, on which this lecture series is based. He has lived and worked in Paris for over 20 years. A dedicated flâneur, he has personally walked every street and admired every structure mentioned in his lectures.
$100 for four-class series or $35 per class