Urban models from the 17th century

by justina

Detail of the urban model from the 17th century

A month ago the Grand Palais in Paris was housing exciting exhibition of raised relief maps and huge urban models of towns from the 17th and 19th centuries. The impressive models done for military reasons now represent urban planning, architecture, typology of the fortified towns and give an image of the environment  few centuries ago.

Visitors explore and walk on carpet, historical map of France, at the entrance of the exhibition

The exhibition was very inspiring. You could endlessly explore precise details, little cute houses, relief, trees, materials, learn about the old towns. Size of the models was really amazing! That let me think that in the 17th century just as now the best way to make the impression and express the power is to show how big, successful and powerful your city is. Back then fortifications, newest planning ideas were presented on the models, now the tallest buildings, the smartest architecture, the biggest developments are also shown on the huge models.

Urban models from the 21st century: Tokyo, Singapore, Dubai and Shanghau

Since the 17thcentury till now role of cities did not change: growth and wealth of the city represents power of the whole country. And a huge model is the most astonishing and understandable way to express that power.

The collection of relief maps

The collection of relief maps was launched in 1668 by Louis XIV’s Minister of War Louvois to give the monarch an overall picture of the kingdom’s defenses. The making of these scale models was directly related to the fortification works. They were three dimensional representations of towns and surrounding country within gun range. The relief maps enabled military strategists to pinpoint weaknesses of fortifications and recommend improvements. This type of representation was greatly appreciated as it immediately showed layout of the fortifications. Aside from their military interest, models were objects of prestige and they portrayed the power of the monarchy.

Till 1873 two hundred sixty models were done. Approximately one hundred models still exist today. The collection is hosted in the  Musée des Plans-reliefs in Les Invalides in Paris.

In the 17th century new fortificatios were presented on 3D relief maps

Exhibition space in the Grand Palais

The model of Brest - covering 130 m² - shows “old Brest” which was destroyed during bombing in the Second World War

The model of Grenoble

In the images below –  relief map of Grenoble city, constructed in ten years and finished in 1848. The 1:604 scale model is composed out of 28 table pieces, and is 59,45m2 size.

The plans of the urban areas were based on information from the land register. In total 126500 trees of many species are represented on the model (forest trees, fruit trees, poplars, willows, fir-trees, walnuts, mulberry trees and bushes) as well as more than 370000 vines. To model the ground (meadows and fields) more than 7kg of chopped silk was used.

59,45 square meters model of Grenoble in France

About Grenoble model

There were several staged of production:
– establishing 28 working models
– representing the facades of the buildings
– construction of the base and forming the relief parts
– bossage and modeling of the terrain
– carving and decoration of the buildings
– adding the décor, paint, silk for the ground, vegetation.

The relief model of Grenoble was considered to be the most remarkable of the collection

The model represents city and the surrounding within gun range

Models were presented under the beautiful nave of the Grand Palais, the prestigious monument on les Champs-Élysées in Paris