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Les Passages Couverts de Paris – The Architecture of Industrial Luxury

Part 1 Dissertation 2013
Jordan Green
University of the West of England Bristol UK
How does the Passage Couvert, as a layer of Paris’ dense urban fabric, contribute and relate to its built environment? The story of their evolution and an analysis of the urban spaces and architectural qualities of three Parisian arcades.

Paris has always been a place associated with mystery, enchantment and romanticism, a city rich in architectural quality and shaped throughout the centuries by strong urban design principles. These distinct characteristics and qualities can be seen and felt in Paris’ Passages Couverts, urban corridors that lie slightly veiled and hidden, tracing lines and pathways across the city.

Established during a period of growing bourgeoisie capitalism the Parisian arcades, ‘glass roofed, marbled-panelled corridors extending through whole blocks of buildings’; served not only as an enhancement of the public realm, but were also an effective method of densification providing additional profit through the insertion of commerce.

The research looks at this somewhat unexplored layer of urban fabric, identifying the historic conditions that led to its emergence and analysing the qualities of its urban space and the contribution and relation of its architectural form to its built environment.

Described as the backdrop for much of 18th C bourgeois public life, the study also considers the importance of the passage covert as the home of the Parisian Flâneur, a key figure in the writings of Walter Benjamin and an object of Parisian bourgeoisie culture.

Whether serving as a shortcut for one or a sheltered walkway for another, whether its typology is exploited as a method of densification or as a speculative building opportunity, whether it serves as a connection ‘between’ or as a route ‘to’; the unique architecture and ambiguous nature of the passage couvert is highlighted and discussed alongside a complementary study of a series of three passage couverts.

Despite an eventual decline of the Parisian passage couvert, in looking at the recent and renewed interest in these urban spaces, the study discusses the possibility of a renaissance for the passage couvert with the aim of demonstrating the significance and enduring relevance of the arcade to contemporary urban contexts.

Jordan Green

Tutor(s)
Elena Marco
2013
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