Victor Baltard (1805-1874). Iron and Paintbrush
Designing the cityIn the same way as his buildings, Baltard's unrealised projects bear witness to the consideration arising from the transformation of Paris under the Second Empire.
From 1856, he designed a huge central station, connected with the idea of the underground railway that was intended to connect the central covered markets to the peripheral railway. Located near the Pont Neuf and covered with metal cupolas, this station was intended to resolve the question of transport in the capital in a very modern way.
In 1860, he proposed, to prefect Haussmann, a project for the construction of the Temple market, adopting a brick and metal architecture, of a pleasing multicoloured appearance, announcing the utilitarian architecture of the 3rd Republic. Lastly, in his drawings relative to the new Opera, he designed a facade with Renaissance-inspired classicism and a room with a visible metal structure, noticeably different from the baroque project of the winner, the young Charles Garnier.
At the Hôtel de VilleIn 1848, when he was put in charge of the Paris Hôtel de Ville, Baltard became the architect responsible for representing municipal power in action. To this end, he managed the worksite for the development of the building, particularly the completion of the decoration.
To complete the prestige associated with this complex, he designed the monument intended above all to decorate the municipal table and carried out some significant architectural work: the courtyard was covered by a huge metal atrium window, a massive double staircase was constructed, ancillary buildings were designed facing the municipal council building, and the 16th century belltower was rebuilt, becoming the focal point of the new prospect created by the Avenue Victoria.
Very affected by the collapse of the Empire and the siege of Paris, Baltard must have been shattered by the fire which destroyed the building in May 1871. In the hope that his experience might be useful, in 1873, he took part in the competition that was initiated for its reconstruction.