The Bureaucracy of Plans: Urban Governance and Maps in Nineteenth-Century Paris | MK Lee | Journal of Urban History

This essay examines the historical role of graphic maps and plans in the Parisian municipal bureaucracy during the nineteenth century. Maps and plans became an important means to consolidate and organize administrative activities related to the built environment. As recognition of the growing number of actors involved, laws were implemented requiring not only an image to build but requiring that they be orthographic. The emergence of orthographic images in building practices was not a consequence of the specific needs of construction per se but rather was informed by the social and political exigencies to standardize diverse practices, to coordinate a variety of actors, and to develop a centralized administrative structure to manage urban development. Yet, even with the strong motivation for conformity, maps and plans were impossible to fully standardize due to the particularities of each site. Accordingly, it was this tension that encouraged the production of ever more paperwork as the basis of an urban bureaucracy.

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