Building a new Syria with the divisions

Bad planning sowed the seeds of conflict in cities such as Homs. Now a local architect has a vision of something better

A century and a half ago, Napoleon III gave to Georges-Eugène Haussmann the task of clearing away the insalubrious streets of medieval Paris, and building a new city full of light and air.

Haussmann’s plan was based on the boulevard, retaining the ancient monuments and the healthier parts of the centre, and reaching out to incorporate the suburbs. Many people, from Victor Hugo to the present, have lamented Haussmann’s plan as an act of vandalism. But Haussmann built in the classical style, maintaining a height compatible with the city vistas, and using the local Lutetian limestone. He respected the street as a public space, and the skyline as the city’s most important visible edge. And he built elegant façades that create a permeable boundary between the public and the private. As a result Paris retained its character as a civilised settlement and, with a hiccup or two, politics replaced barricades as the normal form of protest.

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