“Each little habitation within the great foul nest of one high building – that is to say, the room or rooms within every door that opened on the general staircase – left its own heap of refuse on its own landing, besides flinging other refuse from its own windows. The uncontrollable and hopeless mass of decomposition so engendered, would have polluted the air, even if poverty and deprivation had not loaded it with their intangible impurities; the two bad sources combined made it almost insupportable.
Through the rusted bars, tastes, rather than glimpses were caught of the jumbled neighbourhood and nothing within range, nearer or lower than the summits of the two great towers of Notre-Dame, had any promise on it of healthy life or wholesome aspirations.”
(Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, p. 40-41)
The plight of Paris in the years preceding its great renovation by Napoleon III during the Second Empire is described in terrifying and graphic detail by Dickens in the Tale of Two Cities. This city was the context of catastrophic plagues which wiped out large portions of the population. It was also the scene of massive demonstrations and rebellions which pitted the masses against the monarchy.
Baron George-Eugene Haussmann, under the direction of Napoleon III during the Second Empire (1852 – 1870), treated an ailing and malignant Paris by slicing grand boulevards through teeming slums in the heart of the city. The fundamentally altering urban interventions came to be known as the Haussmanisation of Paris and became the dramatic backdrop for five major Expositions Universelles (Universal Expositions) from 1855 – 1900. The 1889 Exposition Universelle held at the Champ de Mars on the Left Bank exhibited not just works of art and industry but an entire city rationalized and rebuilt based on the principles of medicine and art. Paris took its place on the World’s stage with delegations from industrializing nations including Japan who witnessed the enormous changes since the previous Expositions.
The Champ de Mars across form the newly installed Eiffel Tower, exhibited the context of a re-imagined urban life, enveloping visitors in the epitome of the 19th Century city. With its expansive boulevards replete with new apartment houses catering to the emerging petit bourgeois and bourgeois of Paris, large new open spaces which acted as the “lungs” of the city, and architecture befitting the nation’s capital, Paris became a paradigm of urban renewal to be emulated all over the world.
“Il ne sert pas seulement a distribue le flux des personne, des vehicules et des merchansdises, mais il satisfait (aussi) les exigences de la science hygenique.” (Agulhon, p. 170)
Translation: “It (Haussmann’s interventions) not only distributed the flux of people, vehicles and goods, but it (also) satisfied the requirements of the hygienic sciences.”
Haussman considered himself a technician extraordinaire and his subject was the city which he treated like an ailing body. He performed a carefully and precisely orchestrated series of interventions on Paris which would result in a “comprehensive citywide system of parks and squares, sewers and drinking water, and new boulevards and widened streets” (Boyer, p. 241).
Paris would showcase the two contradictory but related aspects of nationalism and internationalism at the Exposition Universelle, showing the French people and the world at large that Paris was incontestably the center of the new world order. The exposition also showcased France’s supremacy in art, science, engineering, architecture and urbanism in an all-enveloping display which could be experienced as a flaneur through the streets of Paris and within the exposition itself. The spectacle of the exposition and the city is described by Walter Benjamin when he spoke of Haussman’s “urban ideal” of long perspectives of streets and thoroughfares:”
“This corresponds to the inclination, noticeable again and again in the nineteenth century, to ennoble technical necessities by artistic aims. The institutions of the secular and clerical dominance of the bourgeoisie were to find their apotheosis in a framework of streets. Streets, before their completion were draped in canvas and unveiled like monuments.” (Paris Intense, p. 7)
Haussman’s boulevards had several overlapping purposes which determined their location and direction. The streets provided for a new living and shopping space for the upper middle class bourgeois which demanded higher living standards and socializing spaces. The boulevards also connected railway transportation nodes at the periphery with critical points in the city such as, government buildings, hospitals, markets, open spaces, business and entertainment districts. These areas were subsequently connected to essential city services such as riot police, fire and ambulance, and delivery. Thus, new streets and boulevard extensions followed a web-like configuration with major intersections in ‘etoile’ star patterns, creating major focal points of urban exchange and activity. From the Gare de l’est a north-south boulevard to the old Rue St-Martin and Rue St-Denis, traversing the Ile de la Cite and the Left Bank to the Jardin du Luxembourg. The Rue de Rennes, another north-south route linked the Gare de Montparnasse with the Left Bank at St-Germain des Pres. The Rue de Rivoli was extended to Rue St-Antoine, creating a clear east-west corridor connecting Etoile to the Bastille. (Saalman, p. 14-15).
This expansion was critical for both the functioning of the city and the transportation of a large influx of visitors to the Expositions. Especially important was the secondary network of new streets which relieved the pressure on major boulevards as they were not entirely completed during the Second Empire, and provided a way to circumnavigate major faubourgs. The Expositions relied on the avenues radiating out of Place de L’Etoile, especially the Rue de l’Opera, as they funneled traffic back to the Champs Elysees and then to the Rue de Rivoli across the center of the city to the west, thus linking the major railway stations with the Champ de Mars.
The unfortunate aspect of these major infrastructure interventions was the wholesale renovation of inner-city neighborhoods, the removal of the poor from the center of the city and the loss of swaths of apartments situated within the labyrinthine streetscape of pre-Haussmannian Paris. Employing a financial instrument known as deficit financing in concert with expropriation, Haussmann sold municipal bonds and maintained a floating debt which financed payments to contractors to carry out the work. Essentially built on speculation and the desires of the bourgeois for upgraded housing, Haussmann was able to use a rather dubious method to forcibly remove an ‘undesirable’ population. The resulting housing adjacent to the new boulevards, with their glittering facades and spacious interiors, appreciated in value enormously bringing profit to those that had speculated on it (including the creditors).
The hierarchy of the Parisian apartment house did eventually allow some low income urban dwellers to return to the center with the upper apartments cheap enough for them to afford. The apartments on the lower levels were inhabited by the middle and upper-middle class, the ground floor being the most desirable unit as it didn’t involve climbing up five storeys. The upper units became the homes of low-income artists who documented the dramatic changes which had taken place in the center of Paris. Many of these artists (later known collectively as the Impressionists) were barred from exhibiting their works at the 1900 Exposition Universelle. Their work expresses the alienation and existentialist reflection that the renovation of Paris gave rise to. Also financially barred from the center of Paris, most of the undesirable poor remained at the periphery of the city, which provided Napoleon III and Haussmann with a sanitized and aesthetic urban landscape befitting their vision for the Exposition.
As a salve for the poor (and perhaps his own conscience) that were unceremoniously ejected from their homes, Napoleon in his magnanimity directed Haussmann to develop large open spaces at the periphery and smaller parklets within the city proper. Napoleon believed that these spaces would act in a didactic way for the common working-class Parisian. He envisioned that they would improve their morals and customs, and instruct them on how to behave in civil society. Haussman didn’t go as far as Napoleon in his assessment of open space, but he did believe that parks and the expanded tree-lined boulevards would mitigate the spread of disease in the crowded warrens of the slums by introducing fresh air and sunshine (Saalman, p. 18-19).
Haussmann enlisted the help of Jean Charles Adolphe Alphand, a man he considered a jardinier-ingeneur (gardener-engineer) with “le sentiment de l’art” (an artist’s sensibility) (Gideon, p. 764). Alphand was appointed the Directeur des Promenades et Plantations (the Director of Promenades and Plantings). During his tenure, Alphand transformed existing open spaces (Bois de Boulogne, Bois de Vincennes), created new open spaces (Parc des Buttes Chaumont, Parc Monceau, Parc Montsouris, Jardin du Trocadéro) and developed the grand Promenades of Paris, this in addition to numerous squares and boulevard plantings all over the city (Academie d’Agriculture de France).
Alphand later took the helm of the 1889 Exposition as commissaire generale (Gideon, p. 764). He previously designed the grounds of the 1867 Exposition, which included the gardens that surrounded the individual pavilions. The garden was meant to convey a sense of harmony amongst the diversity of international pavilions, but due to the spatial organization, the gardens in fact expressed the division between France (center pavilion) and the relatively humble individual pavilions surrounding it.
“In scale and in architecture the major exposition structures differed notably from the indigenous quarters surrounding them. The main buildings were conspicuously located, self-conscious architectural monuments: the Eiffel Tower and the Galerie des Machines of the 1889 Universal Exposition in Paris, celebrating the spirit of the industrial age; the neoclassical buildings of the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago; the Grand Palais and Petit Palais of the 1900 Paris Universal Exhibition. The pavilions in the parks and gardens, in contrast, were replicas in miniature of buildings in a variety of architectural styles from various cultures. Their scattered siting and the landscape around them reinforced their modesty.” (Çelik, p. 53)
This division within the Exposition reflected in a microcosm the broader segregation of classes apparent in the post-Haussmannian city. The bourgeois took its place in the historic nucleus of the city while the periphery was the realm of the working class. The situation was not much different from modern-day Paris, where the periphery is inhabited by a new underclass of immigrants, the site of “Les émeutes des banlieues de 2005” or the suburban riots of 2005.
The parks, however, were a resounding success and they continued to be fashionable after the Expositions as a great social and public gathering space. Alphand documented their transformation into their modern manifestation, exposing the breadth and depth of technical effort required to invent these spaces. Beneath the veneer of the bucolic and picturesque scenery, Alphand’s engravings in Les Promenades des Paris (The Promenades of Paris):
“illustrate the beauty of hydraulic machines that pumped water to the parks, of drills that sank the wells, of machines that transported trees sometimes as tall as thirty feet so they could line the boulevards in exact and regularized heights – in short, all the technological instruments required to salvage the leftover and often unhealthy spots of the city and transform them into beautiful parks and hygienic walks.” (Boyer, p. 241)
Systematically, the structure of Paris was altered into a clean and efficient city, the scale of its infrastructure anticipating its future growth into a cosmopolitan metropolis. Paris welcomed the world and charmed it with her scintillating beauty, a paradigm of what other cities could only dream of becoming. Despite the relentlessness of Haussmann’s knife, the segregation of the poor from the rich, and the dubiously speculative redevelopment, Paris is today what it is because of those bold interventions. Never to be repeated again at such a scale or in such a grandiose manner, this kind of systematic reconstruction of an entire city would only have be possible within a system of absolute power.
Tokyo like Paris was undergoing massive growth in the post-feudal era with the Meiji Restoration. A flood of Western ideas, including those of modern urban planning and architecture, were entering the Japanese consciousness through vehicles like the exposition phenomenon. Japan sent delegations of experts and bureaucrats abroad to glean from Western examples and fuse those concepts into a unique and distinct Japanese approach.
Imperial Japan sent several delegations abroad to study developments in cities such as Paris. In addition to sending bureaucrats, the Japanese government also sponsored legions of students to study abroad and return to Japan equipped to modernize the country. With the dual looming threats of being left behind with the advent of industrialization and mass production, and perhaps being politically and economically overcome by the West, Japan began a campaign to launch itself into the 20th Century. The Expositions in Paris served as the platform from which to expand into diplomacy, trade, cultural exchange and technology transfer. Another priority was to re-negotiate the unequal treaties withe the West.
Shibusawa Eichii was part of one of a number of delegations sent abroad, but he became particularly influential on the development of Tokyo in the years to come. He was initially sent with Tokugawa Akitake’s delegation to the 1867 Second Exposition Universelle as an accountant and clerk. He was impressed by Paris and remained there for about:
“one and a half years, researching economic law, the reality of joint-stock companies, and the mechanism of financial (bank) systems. Shibusawa’s Kosei Nikki (Diary of Travel to the West) provides details of the scale of the exposition, participation in the event by foreign countries, the venue, the situation of Paris at that time, and the movements of the sovereigns of foreign countries. Also, the diary repeatedly describes his admiration for the progress of Western civilization.” (National Diet Library).
Shibusawa would later experience the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake first-hand and actively participate in relief efforts with the then Mayor of Tokyo, Goto Shinpei. He would then support the reconstruction of Tokyo in the image of Paris through the Tokyo Central District Demarcation Issues Proposal (Tokyo Chuo Shiku Kakutei no Mondai). The 1880 proposal by the seventh Tokyo governor, Matsuda Michiyuki, was:
“to be paid for with a tax on goods entering the city based on the Parisian octroi, which had provided the initial income base Baron Haussman had leveraged to pay for his massive reconstruction of the city between 1853 and 1870.” (Sorenson, p. 64)
The big difference between the Matsuda and Haussmann Plans was that Tokyo would concentrate economic development in the center and in the port area, while in Paris infrastructure and bourgeois housing was made a priority as industrial activity and the poor were pushed to the periphery. Although the Matsuda Plan for Tokyo was not implemented entirely, “new roads were put through, riparian works undertaken, coastal installations improved, and fire prevention and urban reconstruction projects implemented” in the Nihombashi, Kyobashi areas, and the eastern part of Kanda (where the highest concentration of low-income slum areas were located).
A catalyst for the implementation of the plan were the two Meiji fires in 1879 and 1881 which razed more than 10,000 dwellings that were primarily wood construction tenements of the poor. Matsuda’s successor, Yoshikawa Akimasa (the eighth governor of Tokyo in 1882), continued to work with Shibusawa who was concurrently nominated to the Urban Renewal Council. Shibusawa’s ideas strongly influenced Tokyo’s approach to low-income housing and redevelopment. Through his position he promoted the writings of the economic critic Taguchi Ukichi, “How to Prevent Fires” (1881), and “It is Not Difficult to Improve the State of Housing in Tokyo” (1885). Reducing the size of the city of Tokyo, widening streets and major boulevards, rebuilding the city in fireproof materials, and encouraging high-rise development were Taguchi’s main arguments. Taguchi’s notion of high rise construction had much in common with the Parisian apartment house Haussmann had used as his primary tool for real estate speculation and urban renovation. He thought the ideal building typology for Tokyo was a five-story building, “the first floor reserved for shops, the second for family residences, the third for students and low-ranking functionaries, and the fourth and fifth for the poor” (Ishizuka, 177). This type of economic stratification facilitated by an architectural typology has clear parallels with Paris, although the poor were largely evicted to the periphery by Haussmann.
Another prominent Japanese delegation sent to Paris was the Iwakura mission led by Iwakura Tomomi. The mission departed in December 1871 with 50 officials and 59 students, and returned in 1873. The large group visited France towards the end of the year on the 16th of December 1872 and remained in there until 17 February 1873. They remained largely in Paris with brief excursions to Marseille, Calais (via Lyon) and Elbeuf. The delegation missed the 1867 Exposition by a few years but experienced Paris in its recently rebuilt state, marveling at the scale and comprehensiveness of the redevelopment:
“Paris in particular impressed the Japanese with its magnificent boulevards and public structures, recently renovated by Napoleon III and Baron Haussmann, and thereafter Paris long represented the urban ideal for many Japanese planners.” (Sorenson, p. 50)
The upper echelons of Japanese bureaucracy realized that the rapid industrialization of France and its ascension to prominence was closely related to urbanization. French and more specifically Parisian concepts of urban planning were borrowed and incorporated into the Japanese context in this period, influencing generations of architects, engineers, and planners. The official chronicler of the mission, Kume Kunitake wrote in his ‘Memoirs of the Mission’ upon visiting France:
“Situated in the heart of the most developed part of the continent, France is the focal point for all kinds of merchandise and the core of the glittering culture of Europe.” (Kume, p. 9)
Certainly, there was a realization of the social problems lurking under the surface of the city. Kunitake mentions the impetus behind the construction of parks at the periphery which were meant for the displaced working classes:
“At a different level, the discovery that the park of Buttes-Chaumont in eastern Paris had been constructed by Napoleon III for the benefit of the workers in the neighbouring tenements led Kume to praise the ex-emperor and no doubt drew not just his attention, but also that of other members of the mission, to the question of how to deal with the problems presented by the growth of an urban proletariat.” (Nish, p. 50)
The problems arising from the division of classes through coercive expropriation was not entirely ignored by the French government, nor was it overlooked by the Japanese delegation. There was also clear evidence that Paris had been under siege, not just by the Prussian army but by a disillusioned proletariat which left scars in its wake:
“On the walls were hung disused telescopes which had been damaged by bullets from the rebels’ weapons during the Paris Commune uprising. In the course of the recent fighting in France, the destruction wrought by the communards was greater even than the havoc caused by the Prussian army…” (Kume, 291-292)
During the Meiji Period (1968 – 1912), Tokyo experienced a great deal of upheaval amidst the collapse of the Bakufu and the shift to a market economy. Dramatic political and economic changes were being felt in everything from the price of rice to overcrowded conditions within lower-income areas scattered around the city. In 1891, there were approximately 110 slum settlements which covered about 60% of Tokyo’s total land area. Efforts to house the growing tide of people into Tokyo and provide adequate services continued into the Taisho Period (1912 – 1926), but the largest single event to alter Tokyo was the Great Kanto Earthquake which struck on the 1st of September 1923.
Even before the earthquake, which devastated Tokyo, bureaucrats like Goto Shimpei were incorporating what they learned abroad and implementing them in Japanese urban planning and physically within the fabric of the city.
Goto Shimpei spent time abroad in Berlin and Munich, Germany studying medicine and was influenced by concepts of social medicine, social policy and social Darwinism. He conveyed his training in health to apply an anthropomorphic approach to the city, mirroring Haussmann’s modus operandi. Shimpei also visited Paris in 1919 for a Peace Conference, just four years before the earthquake and so he had a first-hand look at the effect of Haussmann’s urban renewal 50 years on (Duus, p.50 – 51).
The earthquake galvanized Goto to act as it provided him with a tabula rasa upon which he could much more easily deploy his plans for a city which reflected Imperial Japan. After convening with the American historian Charles A. Beard, Goto drew up a four pronged goal:
1. Refuse the relocation of the capital;
2. An ambitious reconstruction programme with a budget of 3 Billion Yen.
3. Use of advanced Western planning techniques
4. Take control over independent building activities of landowners to achieve a rational road network (Sorenson, p. 126)
He produced an all-encompassing 3 Billion Yen plan which expanded existing boulevards and developed a network of primary and secondary grids overlaid on the city. While Goto faced vehement opposition to what was perceived as a grandiose plan, he adamantly continued to produce various iterations of his reconstruction plan, reducing the scope and ambition to a simple restoration plan in the end. He rationalized the grid, widened many roads as fire-breaks, and developed the Showa Dori boulevard which still today links Ginza with Ueno in the north-south direction.
Goto used the example of Haussman’s Parisian boulevard which also relied on a similar financial instrument, expropriating land and upgrading the boulevard-adjacent structures, effectively raising land values and financing the infrastructure upgrades. Goto also borrowed from the German urban planning example of Land Readjustment (LR) to facilitate the realization of his scheme. His imprint on Tokyo, while not as far-reaching as the Haussman has had a lasting effect on the city and on Japanese urban planning.
In conclusion, the five Paris Exposition Universelle’s had a paradigm-shifting impact on Paris, making a strong impact on visiting delegations from Japan and subsequently on planning and the urban fabric of Tokyo. Meiji and Taisho Period Japan witnessed significant modernization in parallel with the importation of ideas through conduits like the Expositions. Shibusawa Eichii, the Iwakura Mission and Goto Shinpei were all influenced by either the expositions directly or indirectly though their experience of visiting post-Haussmann Paris. Their efforts to confront the changing global milieu took them to the West where they not only extracted knowledge but also reformulated it into a particularly Japanese approach. They implemented these concepts in rapidly growing post-1923 earthquake Tokyo, Hassumannising Tokyo with new boulevards, open spaces and housing to re-make the Imperial Capital.
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1. GAILLARD, M., Aerial view of Paris at the time of the 1900 Exposition
2. COUPERIE, P., Central Paris and Haussmann’s Boulevard interventions
3. SAALMAN, H., Cross-section of the Parisian Apartment House (1850)
4. ÇELIK, Z., Plan of Exposition universelle, Paris, 1867 (from A. Alphand, Les Promenades de Paris, 1867 –73). p. 53
5. The Iwakura Mission, http://www.iwakura-mission.gr.jp/sisetudan.htm
6. 「東京市区改正全図」 National Archives of Japan, Digital Archive: http://www.digital.archives.go.jp/gallery/view/category/categoryArchives/0300000000/0000000712
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