Street plaques in Paris

8 years ago  •  0 Comments
Paris seems to embody the belief that the creative vitality of a society cannot progress without equally embracing tradition and heritage. A minor though significant example of this is the city’s iconic street plaques.
Although the city has pre-roman origins, its streets weren’t officially named until 1728, and the current street plaques of white letters on a blue background with green trim were put in place in 1823.

So afterwards much of medieval Paris was famously demolished in the mid-19th Century by Louis Napoleon III and his urban planner (1853-69) Georges-Eugene Haussmann in the creation of the modern city of grand boulevards and 20 arrondissements – but many streets in the older districts such as the Marais did survive.

The current street name plaques are made of metal – presumably aluminum – although a few older enamelled plaques do remain – these logically lack information regarding the arrondissement. Other changes are also noticeable – the type has shifted from a blocky serif to a sans, the articles and prepositions have been subordinated in size, explanatory text of the street’s name has been added.

And yet the design has been remarkably consistent for nearly 200 years. They remain an integral yet almost subconscious part of the city’s visual wayfinding system – kept vital as a popular target for street art and graffiti, and reproduced as a popular and slightly less tacky than average tourist souvenir.

Stéphane, Bernard. Dictionnaire des noms de rues. Mengès, 2005.

The pedestrian lights in Paris come in a limited variety. I’m particularly partial to the annoyed red man with the backs of his hands on his hips.