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“Les Promenades de Paris”: Reception of Alphand’s Urban Landscapes and Treatise

Ann Komara, University of Colorado Denver, Fellow 2019–2020

Second Empire Paris witnessed a significant transformation in its urban systems under the direction of Napoleon III. My study situates the influential landscapes and urban designs produced under the lead ingénieur-paysagiste, Jean-Claude Adolphe Alphand, showcased in his catalogue raisonnée Les Promenades de Paris (1867). Alphand’s transformation of a gypsum and limestone quarry site into the celebrated Parc des Buttes Chaumont positions a reception of place. My work assumes the physical presence of a figured landscape that can be explored through a deep read of site conditions, perceptions, and history. Studying what Alphand found and created locates his work in landscape theory, particularly evolving notions of the picturesque. Ongoing receptions of place builds on these horizons; the period 1870–1910 reflects evolving social and cultural practices of structuring vision conveyed in text and image, notably evident in the photographic picture postcard. Uses of the park inform cultural constructions of meaning, and these in turn prefigure and reflect its historical, contextual presence and inform its ongoing agency and relevance as an urban landscape. My study offers a method and critical tactics for “reading site” that are essential to valuing and foregrounding history in contemporary landscape architectural design practice.