Upstairs, Downstairs

Urban renewal is nothing new; it was on Napoleon III’s mind when he placed Baron Haussmann in control of rebuilding significant portions of Paris more than a century and a half ago.

Haussmann selected the site of  the Opera House, also known as Palais Garnier, named for the architect Charles Garnier, who was an unknown until he beat out acclaimed architects in1861 and won the privilege of designing the building. Barely two months into the project, Garnier discovered that Haussman’s site lay above an underground lake, which his crews built a concrete cistern to drain.

Other delays, such as war with Prussia, meant that it was 1875 before the 2,156- seat theatre – then the largest on the planet – opened. Here, we have the profile of the grand staircase.

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