Paris, Boulevard Saint Martin

This gate probably dates from Hausmann's reconstruction of Paris in the middle of the 19th Century, perhaps the high point of post-Cartesian urban planning. Narrow, winding streets had been banned, to be replaced by wide boulevards in rigid geometric patterns. The intimate charm of the medieval city is gone, to be replaced by grand scale, complimented by careful attention to urban amenities, such as kiosks, clocks, trees, gas lanterns. The architecture is regular without being rigid, and the building cooperate in creating a highly attractive running façade.

The gate itself probably stands at the beginning of one of the new boulevards that Hausmann had driven through Paris against considerable opposition. Clearly symbolic and not defensive, its scale it is typical of the age of empire - big, bold, elegant, and somewhat oppressive. It is the ultimate symbol of entrance, a bold statement that is not expected to serve a practical purpose beyond standing as a landmark. That purpose is in itself sufficient to justify its existence.

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