Modern French Architecture

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

Theodore Dalrymple is not in favour of the guillotine — except prophylactically for modern French architects:

They should, of course, be given the choice between the guillotine and the fate of the architects of St Basil’s Cathedral and the Taj Mahal. The latter had their eyes put out so that they would not build anything as beautiful again. Modern French architects should have their eyes put out, but for precisely the opposite reason. They do not use them anyway.

Just as in England you cannot bring up the question of public drunkenness without someone piping up about Gin Lane, as if nothing had happened in England between 1740 and 2010, so you cannot mention the depredations of modern French architects without someone mentioning Baron Haussmann who, at the behest of Louis Napoleon, refashioned a lot of Paris, in the process pulling down a huge number of ancient buildings, mainly so that troops could take easy pot-shots at revolutionary rabbles gathering in the new boulevards. Whether the Haussmannian reconfiguration of Paris was a good thing or not, an important, indeed vital, distinction between him and modern French architects is that he not only had taste but humanity, in the sense that he knew what a civilised urban life consisted of and required. He didn’t pull down old Paris in order to build Rostov-on-Don or Pyongyang.

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