Gideon Fink Shapiro

Andrew W. Mellon Graduate Fellow in the Humanities

20122013 Forum on Peripheries

Gideon Fink Shapiro


The Promenades of Paris: Constructing Modern Nature, Public Space, and the Image of the City

The construction of public parks, squares, and promenades under the direction of the engineerturned-gardenist J.C.A. Alphand remains an understudied aspect of the expansion and transformation of Paris under the Second Empire. While city's old quarters—facilitating sanitation, shopping, bourgeois housing, café culture, and military control—new public green spaces synthesized landscape garden aesthetics with modern technology and an image of social harmony. The term promenade refers simultaneously to a spatio-cultural practice and to the site of that practice. Alphand's promenades were designed to accommodate two modes of performance: One the one hand the functioning of an urban infrastructural system, and on the other hand the theatrical staging of an artfully 'natural' metropolis. A two-volume book authored by Alphand, Les Promenades de Paris (1867-73), contains commentary and descriptions that invite a fresh critical study of this contentious period through the lens of urban landscape architecture and planning.