Le Parc des Buttes-Chaumont : la dualité du rus in urbe by Donna CANADA-SMITH – Château de Bénouville

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Le Parc des Buttes-Chaumont : la dualité du rus in urbe by Donna CANADA-SMITH – Château de Bénouville

Parc des Buttes-Chaumont: Duality of the rus in urbe

Inaugurated in 1867 in conjunction with the Exposition Universelle, the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont was designed as an urban retreat for the working classes of the 19th and 20th arrondissements. Its style, derivative of the anglo-chinois gardens made popular in late eighteenth-century French society, combined the idea of nature with scientific and technological advancements of the period in order to showcase France’s wealth and innovation. Historian Luisa Limido claims that « [u]n jeu de miroirs s’établit ainsi entre ville et jardin: on contemple le jardin de l’extérieur et en même temps on contemple la ville des buttes panoramiques du jardin ». This paper will analyse the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont first as rus in urbe, and secondly, as a site of escape. This site-specific study will explore the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont within the framework of Parisian garden history, and in light of the social interactions promoted by the site. By adopting such an approach, this paper will seek to establish the ways in which the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont promoted an ‘escape’ through nature, and the problematics of this endeavour. Finally, this paper will argue that the design for the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont prevents the possibility of escaping the urban framework, and that instead, the park serves as a signifier of late nineteenth-century Parisian society.

Donna T.Canada-Smith


Donna T. Canada-Smith is a fourth-year PhD candidate at Trinity College Dublin. Her PhD dissertation is entitled ‘Parisian Urban Green Spaces as Palimpsest: Memory, Codification and Aesthetics in Monceau, Bagatelle and the Buttes-Chaumont’, and is being completed under the supervision of Dr Sarah Alyn Stacey. She received a Master’s in French literature from Middlebury College, where she completed her master’s mémoire ‘L’Imaginaire urbain parisien dans les oeuvres d’Emile Zola’, directed by Chantal Pierre-Gnassounou. Currently, she is editing a publication on the French Garden as Cultural Palimpsest, and pursuing a project on garden and landscape failures.