In 1853, Haussmann began the incredible transformation of Paris, reconfiguring the city into 20 manageable arrondissements, all linked with grand, gas-lit boulevards and new arteries of running water to feed large public parks and beautiful gardens influenced greatly by London’s Kew Gardens. In every quarter, the indefatigable prefect, in concert with engineer Jean-Charles Alphand, refurbished neglected estates such as Parc Monceau and the Jardin du Luxembourg, and transformed royal hunting enclaves into new parks such as enormous Bois de Boulogne and Bois de Vincennes. They added romantic Parc des Buttes Chaumont and Parc Montsouris in areas that were formerly inhospitable quarries, as well as dozens of smaller neighborhood gardens that Alphand described as "green and flowering salons."
Thanks to hothouses that sprang up in Paris, inspired by England’s prefabricated cast iron and glass factory buildings and huge exhibition halls such as the Crystal Palace, exotic blooms became readily available for small Parisian gardens. For example, nineteenth-century metal and glass conservatories added by Charles Rohault de Fleury to the Jardin des Plantes, Louis XIII’s 1626 royal botanical garden for medicinal plants, provided ideal conditions for orchids, tulips, and other plant species from around the globe. Other steel structures, such as Victor Baltard’s 12 metal and glass market stalls at Les Halles in the 1850s, also heralded the coming of Paris’s most enduring symbol, Gustave Eiffel’s 1889 Universal Exposition tower, and the installation of steel viaducts for trains to all parts of France. Word of this new Paris brought about emulative City Beautiful movements in most European capitals, and in the United States, Bois de Boulogne and Parc des Buttes Chaumont became models for Frederick Law Olmsted’s Central Park in New York.
Meanwhile, for Parisians fascinated by the lakes, cascades, grottoes, lawns, flowerbeds, and trees that transformed their city from just another ancient capital into a lyrical, magical garden city, the new Paris became a textbook for cross-pollinating garden ideas at any scale. Royal gardens and exotic public pleasure grounds of the Second Empire became springboards for gardens such as Bernard Tschumi’s vast, conceptual Parc de La Villette, with its modern follies, and “wild” jardins en mouvement at the Fondation Cartier and the Musée du Quai Branly. In turn, allées of trees in some classic formal gardens were allowed to grow freely or were interleaved with wildflower meadows and wild grasses for their unsung beauty. Private gardens hidden behind hôtel particulier walls, gardens in spacious suburbs, city courtyards, and minuscule rooftop terraces, became expressions of old and very new gardens that synthesized nature, art, and outdoors living.