Essential Architecture-  Paris

Passage du Cheval Blanc


Various builders throughout Paris history


2 Rue de la Roquette, 11th.


17th century






Shops, etc.
The Revolution is forever linked to one specific building: the prison known ominously as La Bastille. When the building was stormed on July 14, 1789, the prison only held four cheque forgers, an elderly aristocrat and a couple of lunatics. But no matter: the building has gone down in history as an infamous dungeon. Only a few stones are left—keep your eyes open in the Bastille Métro. But what remains nearby is the the architecture that gave rise to the Revolution in the first place: the crowded streets of the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, where you’re now standing. These narrow passages housed poor craftsmen, who were among the first to revolt in 1789. Parisian workers’ lives had been strictly regulated by their guilds since the Middle Ages, but the Faubourg Saint-Antoine escaped the expensive guild system by placing itself under the protection of the local Abbess. From the beginning of the 17th century, the area was known for its rebellious attitude towards the King. When the Revolution came, the Faubourg exploded. Walking through the mixture of buildings in this passage, you have to imagine the throngs of people who lived here, crowded into tiny apartments above noisy workshops. Child labor was normal and horses powered the large machinery crammed into these passages. Today these buildings have been beautifully cleaned up, but the narrow buildings to the left are a good reminder that the vast majority of Parisians still lived in overcrowded, poorly-sanitized, truly Medieval conditions, even as the wealthy constructed magnificent Neo-classic monuments.


By Lisa Pasold (Special thanks to