‘I want to be a second Augustus … because Augustus … made Rome a city of marble.’ - Louis Napoleon (1842)
Have you ever wondered why central Paris lacks the dark and narrow passage ways you'd expect in a city old as she is? Or have you thought about how it comes there aren't any medieval houses left to see in the city center? You find it hard as me to imagine the uprising, the pursuits and the barricades as described in Victor Hugo's Les Miserables in the streets of Paris you know them today? Monsieur Haussmann is to thank - he completely changed the view of the city in less than twenty years.
The change of Paris's appearance started in the middle of the nineteenth century. Only being half as large as today, Paris already was a large capital, and it was heavily overcrowded. Life in the city was dangerous due to the small and dark passages - robbers could be lurking around every corner - and due to its unsanitary conditions. The Seine spread an awful stench because sewers were emptied into the river. There was no good-working water supply system, so that fresh drinking water was a rare good. The street plan had changed little since the Middle Ages, but the population had grown immensely. In the area that now roughly forms the first four arrondissements, the population density was one inhabitant on every three square meters. Diseases spread terribly fast in these conditions. In addition, traffic circulation was difficult because many streets were too narrow for carriages to move through them - an impossible state of being for the capital of one of the mightiest countries in Europe.