The banks of the Seine are studded with a succession of masterpieces, including, in particular, Notre Dame and the Sainte Chapelle, Louvre, Palais de l'lnstitut, Les Invalides, Place de la Concorde, École Militaire, La Monnaie (Mint), Grand Palais des Champs Elysées, Eiffel Tower and Palais de Chaillot. A number of them, such as Notre Dame and the Sainte Chapelle, were definitive references in the spread of Gothic construction, while the Place de la Concorde or the vista at the Invalides exerted influence on the urban development of European capitals. The Marais and Île Saint-Louis have coherent architectural ensembles, with highly significant examples of Parisian construction of the 17th and 18th centuries (Hôtel Lauzun and Hôtel Lambert on the Île St Louis), Quai Malaquais, and Quai Voltaire.
From the Louvre to the Eiffel Tower, from the Place de la Concorde to the Grand and Petit Palais, the evolution of Paris and its history can be seen from the River Seine. The Cathedral of Notre-Dame and the Sainte Chapelle are architectural masterpieces while Haussmann's wide squares and boulevards influenced late 19th- and 20th-century town planning the world over.
Paris is a river town. Ever since the first human settlements, from the prehistoric days and the village of the Parisii tribes, the Seine has played both a defensive and an economic role. The present historic city, which developed between the 16th (and particularly the 17th) centuries and the 20th century, translates the evolution of the relationship between the river and the people: defence, trade, promenades, etc.
The choice of the zone between Pont de Sully and Pont d'léna is based on the age-old distinction between Paris upstream and Paris downstream. Upstream, beyond the Arsénal, begins Paris the port and river transport town; downstream is the royal and subsequently aristocratic Paris, which had only limited commercial activity. It is this latter section of the city which was selected for the World Heritage List. The powerful hand of the state is extremely visible here through its constructions and the legislation in effect.
It can be seen how the site and the river were gradually brought under control with the articulation of the two islets, Île de la Cité and Île Saint-Louis with the bank, the creation of north-south thoroughfares, installations along the river course, construction of quays, and the channelling of the river. Similarly, although the successive walls of the city have disappeared (the enceintes of Philippe-Auguste, Charles V, and the Fermiers Généraux), their traces may be read in the difference in size and spacing of the buildings (closer together in the Marais and the Île Saint-Louis, more open after the Louvre, beyond which are a greater number of major classic constructions laid along three perpendicular axes: Palais Bourbon-Concorde-Madeleine, Invalides-Grand and Petit Palais, Champ-de-Mars-École Militaire-Palais de Chaillot. The ensemble must be regarded as a geographical and historic entity. Today it constitutes a remarkable example of urban riverside architecture, where the strata of history are harmoniously superposed.
Haussmann's urbanism, which marks the western part of the city, inspired the construction of the great cities of the New World, in particular in Latin America. The Eiffel Tower and the Palais de Chaillot are living testimony of the great universal exhibitions, which were of such great importance in the 19th and 20th centuries.
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