19th-century French Architecture

The Empire, 1804-1815

Under Napoleon I, Paris symbolized 
an international modernizing 
force. Napoleon is cited as 
wanting to make Paris the most 
beautiful city in the world. He 
was keen to build massive, 
symbolic monuments. His 
achievement, in such a brief 
reign, was considerable. However, 
he did not change the face of the 
city, and no predominant Empire 
style emerged. The emperorâs 
tastes were strongly 
neo-classical. He placed great 
trust in his chosen architects and 
did not involve himself in the 
detail of their designs. This 
allowed them to act as key 
arbiters of architectural taste 
and the result was a continuation 
of pre-1789 classicism, with an 
emphasis on the neo-classical. In 
the absence of a big construction 
plan of new streets and squares, 
the reshaping of imperial Paris 
depended largely on public 
buildings. There were special 
efforts to make a striking, 
symbolic statement. The biggest of 
all, the Arc de Triomphe, was 
clearly a lengthy undertaking. The 
years between 1789 and 1852 mark 
some kind of interruption in the 
history of Parisian architecture 
and planning. They had the effect 
of maintaining the pre-1789, 
classical approach until 
industrial growth began in the 
1840s. Architectureâs 
confrontation with Franceâs first 
Industrial Revolution did not 
therefore take place until after 
1850s, and especially during the 
Second Empire.
Place de la Concorde Arc de Triomphe Carrousel arch Palais Bourbon Church of the Madeleine
19th-century Frence: Architecture / Decorative Arts and Design