Friday, January 11, 2013

Neuf Brisach, France - June 16, 2012

Still in the Haut-Rhin department of the Alsace we stopped at an odd little town called Neuf Brisach, population 2,200 or so, its name taken from the town of Breisach just three miles away across the Rhine in Germany. After Breisach was lost to the Habsburgs in 1697, this fortified town was built by the French to guard the border. Louis XIV had his vaunted military engineer Vauban design the project and work started in 1698.
This turned out to be Vauban's last work - he died in 1707 and construction was actually completed by Louis de Cormontaigne. The layout represented the then current "ideal city" with a regular square grid street pattern inside an octagonal fortification.
A 4 block by 4 block area was set aside at the center for the central square. Elsewhere, individual blocks were offered for private development for expensive houses in private gardens or as properties for commercial rent. Simpler housing was provided in long tenement blocks, built inside each curtain wall, which also had the effect of shielding the better houses from the risk of cannon fire. Access was provided by large gateways in the four principal curtain walls.
The outer earthworks were deep and occupied a greater area than the city itself. Although the city suffered some damage in WWII, it still represents a very clear example of the latest in fortification work at the beginning of the eighteenth century and Neuf-Brisach was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008. Fortified or not, this "new" town has changed hands five times in the 300 years or so of its existence. More images here.

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