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How Paris’ zoning envelope has changed over the centuries

I came across this French paper over the weekend, while I was at the gym pretending to work out my legs. It is a fascinating look at the evolution of Parisian urbanism from 1600-1902, including how the city’s height limits have changed over the centuries. Here, for example, are two section diagrams showing the allowable building envelopes for both an 8 meter street and a 10 meter street:

The way to read these is to start at the bottom with the width of the right-of-way (“voie”). As you move up, it then gives you the allowable heights for various dates. So for example, in 1667, the allowable building height for a 10 meter street was 15.60m. After this height, there was then a requirement to stepback following a 45 degree angular plane. Or in some cases, following a certain radius:

We don’t have a ton of 8 and 10-meter wide streets here in Toronto, but there are obvious similarities between what is shown here and what is in our mid-rise design guidelines. Of course, the big difference is that we’re mostly zoned for low-rises houses and Paris is not. This broader context matters a great deal and it’s why I keep asking: Are you sure you want Parisian-style urbanism?


  1. Myron Nebozuk

    Yes, please!

    Every time my family and I have rented an apartment in Paris, we know that we’ll be compressed quarters. We even rented a place that had a washroom so small that one could not fully close the door when one sat on the toilet. No problem though because our living room is always vast; the moment we step outside our apartment building, our next adventure begins. Smallish Parisian apartments work because their streets are so animated and engaging.

    Now, could we have your take on today’s Haider & Moranis article in the National Post about the possible effects of the federal government employees’ collective agreement’s effect on urban work places?


  2. Pingback: Everything looks in place here – BRANDON DONNELLY

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