Bad news from Paris


Mary Campbell Gallagher, of SOS Paris, reports that the new mayor of Paris is working to undermine the already weakened legal stuctures that protect the beauty of the City of Light. There was a pro-beauty, anti-skyscraper candidate in the March election, but she lost to the Socialist.

Here is Mary’s report:

The new mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, is an enthusiastic supporter of skyscrapers and numberless other offenses against the built heritage and a skilled politician. In a recent non-act of potentially great impact, she has failed since the elections in March to re-appoint the members of the Commission on Old Paris (Commission du Vieux Paris), a respected body dating from 1897.

The CVP is composed of 40 experts, professors, historians, and others, including the current president of SOS Paris, Olivier de Monicault, and another 15 elected members of the City Council. Although the public knows little about the CVP, it has in fact examined all of the applications for building permits and demolition permits in Paris, and it has published its recommendations. Its opinions are merely advisory, but since preservationists cite them in lawsuits, they have caused pain at City Hall. Mayor

Hidalgo, according to a report in the August 13 issue of the weekly Canard Enchainé, wishes to reduce the scope of the CVP’s inquiries and to cease publishing its recommendations. Observers have asked whether such secrecy is consistent with the transparency prized by the Socialists. The deputy mayor for culture, Bruno Julliard, meanwhile, calls the proposed changes modernizing the CVP.

I am delighted to report that the revelations in the Canard Enchainé have caused a stir even in media like MetroNews not known for heritage reporting. More will be revealed.

Here’s an example of why the Commission du Vieux Paris (CVP) is so important that Mayor Hidalgo wants to cripple it. In the Samaritaine case, the governmental agencies charged with protecting the architectural heritage of Paris all backed SANAA’s and LVMH’s plans to build a seven-story tall, 260-foot long, wavy translucent glass facade on the rue de Rivoli, right in the historic center of Paris. Other buildings on the rue de Rivoli are made of limestone, and the facades have, it will not surprise you to learn, windows and doors. City approval nonetheless came for demolishing the 18th-century and 19th-century buildings already there and for building the glass billboard SANAA proposed. Not only that, but even the department in the national Ministry of Culture charged with protecting the surroundings of designated historical monuments ALSO approved SANAA’s blight. Only the CVP advised against the project. How embarrassing for City Hall. No wonder Mayor Anne Hidalgo wants to shut it down!



About David Brussat

This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. History Press asked me to write and in August 2017 published my first book, "Lost Providence." I am now writing my second book. My freelance writing on architecture and other topics addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to employ my writing and editing to improve your work, please email me at my consultancy,, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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3 Responses to Bad news from Paris

  1. Catherine says:

    Wow, thanks for sharing this David. It never occurred to me that there was an historic district commission for Paris! One assumes, when they visit a beautiful city, that the city knows what they are doing or else we wouldn’t see what we see what we see. But just like American cities, there are no guarantees, and it requires constant vigilance. Keep us posted.


  2. barry says:

    Quel dommage! Paris attracts visitors, conventions, and businesses because of its scale, streetscapes and charm, not anywhereville skyscrapers. It is said the only thing good that could be said about the skyscraper Tour Montparnasse is that it it the only place in the city from which Tour Montparnasse doesn’t spoil the view. Merci David for calling attention to this


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