Façade of a House in Paris

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“The French town houses differ, moreover, essentially in entire design, which influences their style, from those of other countries. This remark does not apply to those houses which are calculated for one family only, nor to the palatial residences of the nobility and plutocracy, which the French call Hôtels. This difference partly consists in the universal employment of the ground-floor as shops, which are only separated from the street by an opening which is glazed over and supported by individual iron girders. The whole façade consequently appears rather to be suspended in the air than supported architecturally. Over the shop, there is almost always an entresol, that is to say, a low storey between the ground floor and the first storey. The restriction to a certain height which the façade may not exceed has a determinating influence on the form of the topmost portion of the building, inasmuch as above this height the façade is terminated by an offset which slopes backwards over the upper storey [shown here]. Projecting balconies are, moreover, usual along the whole length of the façades, making the divisions into storeys. When these balconies are not met with, the windows of each storey come down to the top of the storey below, or at any rate nearly so, and have iron balustrades in front of them; this construction is partly owing to the storeys from their great number being so low that without this remedy the windows would appear too small and badly proportioned. The lowness of the storeys necessarily exercises a prejudicial effect on the architectural beauty of the façades; so that it is difficult to impart any structural significance to the houses, which consequently only convey and sense of beauty through their details.”


A. Rosengarten, W. Collett-Sandars A Handbook of Architectural Styles (New York, NY: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1895)


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