23 June 2007

Paris Architecture

I've decided to set my last Warring Hearts book in Paris after the liberation from the Nazis in August 1944. Mainly because I was able to visit Paris in May, and I enjoy writing about a place where I've been. What struck me about Paris is how different it is in 'feel' from London. It struck me as 'clean and bright'. Perhaps it's brighter because it's modern in comparison, with its bold, wide boulevards and stately 19th century buildings.

After the French Revolution, and around 1815, neo-classicism began to dominate Paris architecture. Under the Second Empire, Paris was transformed. The main emphasis was on the streets, and everything radiated from the center at the costs of thousands of demolitions. Haussmann was the big man around town when Napoleon III called on him to renovate Paris in 1853. The center point of Paris began at the Place de l'Etoile, and radiated in straight avenues throughout the city. Napoleon III had his reasons for this massive renovation of his city. He wanted to prevent another revolution by making it harder to build barricades. Another goal of his was to make it easier to control the flow of traffic and encourage economic growth. To protect the city from another revolution, Haussmann tore up many of the old, twisting streets and run- down apartments. He replaced them with wide tree-lined streets and gardens. It made it difficult for revolutionaries to hide or to escape from the guards. It also must have been difficult for the French Resistance to hide from the Gestapo during those dark times.

Very little is left of the pre-Haussmann era...the Latin Quarter, Montmartre, and the center of the city, namely the Le Marais, L’île de la cite and l’île Saint-Louis. The hill preserved Montmartre from the chopping block, and even today, it retains its 'village' charm. Once a famous artist community, Pissaro, Picasso, Degas, and many others lived and worked there.

"Interesting, as a side note, that Haussmann’s influence is still seen on the most mundane level, too. At periodic intervals each day, water gushes from manmade artesian springs to wash the gutters of Paris’s streets and boulevards -- a Haussman innovation, some would say obsession for transforming the Paris of old to a clean city..."

Richard Hart and Claire O'Neill are going to meet up in Paris - my main characters of Warring Hearts. Its in the City of Lights where they'll come to terms with their love after five years of enduring separation, and the hardships of a world at war.

Paris is a city where love is celebrated. For Richard and Claire, will love be enough?

Vicki Gaia