Georges-Eugene Haussmann (1809-1891) was charged by Emperor Napoleon III to manage the renovation of Paris which included new boulevards, parks, and infrastructure. Haussmann directed the work from 1853 to 1870, and the work continued until 1927. He was eventually dismissed from the project by Napoleon III after critics complained of the extravagance of his vision.

At the time the renovation started, Paris’s population was rapidly growing and the city was facing overcrowding and unsanitary living conditions. Additionally, the city’s ancient infrastructure could not keep up with the demands being placed on the system. Earlier renovations had taken place, but nothing on the scale of what Haussmann was going to do. Napoleon III instructed Haussmann to:

…give it air and open space, to connect and unify the different parts of the city into one whole, and to make it more beautiful.

— Patrice de Moncan, Le Paris d’Haussmann

This video will give you a brief overview of the scale and scope of the project:

The impact of Haussmann’s vision was stunning and Paris as we know it today would simply not exist without his work.

I often wonder how a project of this scale would be undertaken today. When you are working directly for the Emperor and meeting with him daily on the project, I imagine that things simply happened without a lot of resistance.

The political challenge that leaders face today is that they need to bring the people along with them when working to execute their visions. There will always be opposition to projects, but how you work with the opposing side(s) to resolve the issues is the key to building a foundation for future collaborative growth.

Large scale change, disruption, or grand visions may not be comfortable, but they need to be discussed and realized in order to make exponential leaps in our development as a society. Branson, Jobs, Musk, Gates, and Zuckerberg are a few names that come to mind when thinking of people that have created an impact. I’d like to see more people working locally to affect change.

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