This is an interesting article by ArchDaily, looking at the “evolution of the house plan in Europe” between 1760 and 1939. The article focuses on London, Paris, Amsterdam, and Moscow and includes floor plans, photographs, as well as well-known illustrations like the one shown above. Created by Bertall in 1845, the drawing shows a section through a Parisian house and is called The Five Floors of the Parisian World.
What it shows is the declining opulence that used to exist in Paris’ apartment blocks as you moved upward. If you were rich, you lived on the second floor, right above the ground floor lobby. The ceilings were higher on this floor and maybe had a balcony overlooking the street. If you lived on the third floor it meant that you were a less rich. And if you lived in the top floor attic, you were poor. That is what this comic is showing.
Now, all of this changed over time as new technologies, namely the elevator, were brought to multi-family buildings. All of a sudden it became convenient to live higher up and all of a sudden people wanted better views and to get further away from the chaos of the street. What I’m curious about, though, is how posterity dealt with the lower ceiling heights on these upper floors.