Why did I love this book?
This book focuses on the role of modern architecture in Paris, and by “modern,” Dennis has in mind the architecture created during the reinvention of Paris in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Dennis provides the best introduction to a crucial factor in Paris’s essence: the particular kind of residential architecture that became characteristic of the cityscape in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: the hôtel or townhouse. Great architecture helps make a city great, and in Paris in particular, much of the greatest modern architecture was originally residential – grand townhouses built for the wealthiest Parisians.
Today, most of these townhouses have become museums, government ministries, foreign embassies. With its focus on the relation between public and private space in the city and the ways in which residential architecture can and should function in relation to the streets and the public space in which it is embedded, Dennis’s work is essential for understanding how Parisian townhouses have been able to play such strikingly different roles in the city’s history.