Napoleon and urbanism in the 19th century

Emergence of the modern city

An illustration of the Arc de triomphe, in Paris. A frontal view of the monument on a sunny day. There are some people walking around it, and a few of them are horse-riding.

I have made the glory of my reign to consist in changing the surface of the territory of my Empire. The execution of these great works is as necessary to the interest of my people as to my own satisfaction.

Napoleon Bonaparte, Correspondence of Napoleon I published by order of Emperor Napoleon III, XVI, 14 Nov. 1807 (Paris, 1858-69) [1]

The end of the 18th century saw the rise of many political and social changes fostered by new ideas carried by the Enlightenment movement. Decision-making guided by reason, far from any obscurantism or superstitions of past times, had an impact on urban planning and its aesthetics as well. The city became a place of life, discussion and social activities that had to be as healthy, inclusive and empowering as possible.

In this sense, Napoleon was a man of his time, whether be it on the legislative level with, for example, the first decree against industrial pollution (1810), or the development of public services, such as education and public hospitals. The Consulate and the First Empire saw the emergence of the modern city, which required planning and public intervention for the collective and moral good.

From Paris to Madrid, through Amsterdam, Lucca or Pontivy and Piombino, this exhibition lets you discover the changes in urban planning under Napoleon in Europe.