Arch. Myriam B. Mahiques Curriculum Vitae

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Haussmann block, as seen by Emile Zola

An example of the Haussmann block. From
"The Haussmann block excluded, at least from its centre, all the diversified activities that coexisted there previously in the same way as the urbanization process excluded some activities from the centre of the city. Often only those activities connected to housing could find space within a block, whose character derives, as we have noted previously, from social needs. This did not cause great difficulties to the inhabitants, because the block became fragmented and most of the buildings were inhabited by a homogeneous  population.
If we take up again the distinctions made earlier between the perimeter of the block, which is in contact with the street through the facade of the buildings, and its centre, we realize that this functions only as a back space where some street activities (stables, sheds) are still located there. This arrangement ensured a distinction between the visible and the hidden parts of housing. The bourgeois building was the place of false modesty -see Zola's Pot Bouille and the thoughts contained in its first pages on "the discreet ostentation" of the facade, which masks the "internal sewer". With regard to working-class blocks of flats, they continued, undoubtedly, to be the theatre of a more open form of sociability and activities that extended the life that took place in the dwelling -children played in the courtyard and family events spilled out from the dwelling."
Reference: The Block and its Differentiation. In Urban Forms. The death and life of the urban block. Ivor Samuels. P. 128-129.
Pot-Bouille by Emile Zola:

Pot-Bouille is the tenth novel in the Rougon-Macquart series by Émile Zola. It was first serialized between January and April 1882 in the periodical Le Gaulois before being published in book form by Charpentier in 1883.
The novel is an indictment of the hypocritical mores of the bourgeoisie of the Second French Empire. It is set in a Parisian apartment building, a relatively new housing arrangement at the time, and its title (roughly translating as stew pot) reflects the disparate and sometimes unpleasant elements lurking behind the building's new and decorative façade.
Pot-Bouille was first translated into English by Henry Vizetelly in 1886 and Percy Pinkerton in 1895; both translations are available in reprints. There have been other English translations through the years (as Piping Hot!, Pot Luck, Restless House, and Lesson in Love), the most recent being by Brian Nelson for Oxford World's Classics (1999).
William Busnach adapted Pot-Bouille as a play, produced at the Théâtre de l'Ambigu-Comique in 1883.

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