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Why The City of Paris Has Virtually No Tall Buildings Like Every Other Bustling European Metropolis

1800s | September 27, 2016

If you've ever studied the skyline of Paris, you might have noticed that the central part of the city has virtually no tall buildings. Seems odd for a bustling European metropolis, right?

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Well, that's because nobody can build much of anything in Paris without the city collapsing into the earth, thanks to a chaotic maze of unmapped tunnels dug underneath it.

Gypsum and limestone had been mined beneath Paris since the 13th century. As the city grew, so did the tunnels, but nobody bothered to keep track of how many were being dug or how far they extended in any particular direction.

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A handful of Parisian suburbs were swallowed up by subterranean mine shafts over the next few centuries, and by the 1700s entire sections of Paris were dropping through the ground.

City officials were appropriately baffled, as none of them had any idea that Paris was essentially sitting on top of a giant quarry.

King Louis XIV sent some men to investigate why the earth was eating their city, and they discovered that pretty much all of Paris was in danger of collapsing, as it was built atop miles and miles of fragile quarries that, once again, nobody had bothered to keep track of.

Improvements to the tunnels were immediately begun, but despite the numerous catastrophes, France continued boring dangerous holes beneath its capital city until the late 1800s.

The French government finally got wise to the fact that they were essentially digging Paris a giant grave in the 1950s, and since then almost all of the tunnels have been declared off-limits.

The city has weight restrictions imposed on buildings to keep from putting too much strain on the threadbare mine shafts beneath them, hence Paris' lack of skyscrapers. However, with sections of the tunnels still regularly collapsing, all it will take is a small tremor to bury the whole city.

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