“History of the street”: in the heart of cities

Street story. From antiquity to the present day

Under the direction of Danielle Tartakowsky, with Joël Cornette, Emmanuel Fureix, Claude Gauvard, Catherine Saliou

Tallandier, 530 pages, €34.90

It was a big Parisian project. A vast round square located in the heart of the capital from which wide straight arteries would go out in a star shape in all directions. These eight streets “lined with uniform buildings” were to be called Picardie, Dauphiné, Provence, Languedoc, Guyenne, Poitou, Bretagne, Bourgogne and lead to the majestic Place de France. At 80 meters, a parallel street would form a first arc of a circle, before another arc further on…

This grandiose project is not that of the Place Charles-de-Gaulle Étoile which, today, however, looks so much like it. Henri IV ordered it in 1605. “The finest example of”speaking architecture” of a square and streets full of “say the power” and to strengthen the unity of the “French nation” after the wars of religion is that of a project which never saw the light of day because of the assassination of the king in 1610″, explains, supported by a plan, the fascinating street history published by a collective of historians under the direction of Danielle Tartakowsky.

This discovery, among many others, feeds reflection on the street, a familiar and changing place. The book paints a majestic portrait of it in its permanence and modernity. If it follows a chronological thread, it does not prohibit the free exploration of its multiple faces and uses. From the Roman road to the arteries where Street Art flourishes, we admire the street as a world universe over a hundred illustrations.

Meetings, shows, massacres

“Place of intense life” During the Middle Ages, the street became synonymous with insalubrity, disorder, but also with the assertion of royal power during executions and “ staging of the social and religious body of the city » in great processions. The book details these ceremonies which “imprint the liturgical time of the great feasts of Christianity in the space of the street”, and peak in times of crisis.

Encounters and confrontations, misery and opulence, spectacles and massacres, the street has become a political force since the Fronde. The French revolutionary tradition is documented with great history and tasty anecdotes.

Thus, a pitiful police report from 1707 gives an account of the vain attempt, under the invectives of a “great crowd of men, women and children”, to seize the job of a Parisian worker. The inhabitants of his district hide the trade in the Saint Antoine abbey with the complicity of the Abbess. “Which forced us to go up to the parlor of Madame l’Abbess to ask her for the representation of the things removed and locked up in her abbey. But the said lady replied that she had no knowledge of it and complained that her privileges were being disturbed.laments the police.

This “solidarity street” in which the action of Abbé Pierre will take place, is still confronted today with the miseries of the magnificently decorated and richly lit streets, in the shadow of which one can nevertheless still see the tent of a homeless person or a homeless person on the street. Always placed at the heart of the reflection, this social dimension in the analysis represents one of the most convincing arguments of this stimulating essay.

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