The first market on this spot was established during the 12th century. What would be known as “Les Halles” was probably mainly linked to the Baltard pavillons, built around 1850-70 … and demolished 1971-73. This was until then the centre for all commerce with food of all kinds. The place became for a while known as “Le Trou des Halles” (the hole…). New metro stations were created, a “forum” was built on top in 1979, replaced in 1985 and completed with gardens in 1986. The underground became an important shopping centre with cinemas and a lot of other activities. However, the place did not give satisfaction for many reasons – security, unsatisfactory access and circulation… The disappointment with what was created in the 1970’s and 80’s means that a new project is now on its way. It will open partially next year and be completely ready in some two or three years.
I was not there for the earlier versions, but I made a post about what the place looked like until about three years ago (see here) and also about the neighbourhood, including the “Bourse de Commerce” (see here).
The picture of the Saint Eustache church (see previous post) you see on the top of the post was taken from the building site. I had the opportunity to put a helmet on and visit the ongoing construction work.
What is almost finished is “The Canopy”. The underground part of “Les Halles” will of course be covered, but now by a glass construction which protects from wind and rain, but anyhow opens to the exterior, to air. This part with new installations (shops, library, conservatory, cultural centre, restaurants…) will open next year (2015).
Care has of course been given to capture solar energy, use of rain water…
A little space can already be seen with a bit of the aspect that will be offered. You can find a lot of information of what the future installations will look like. .
What has been especially important is to improve the access, including for the 750.000 people who daily use the six metro and three RER lines, which meet at the station “Châtelet-Les Halles”. New accesses are created, the old ones remodelled. One of the major difficulties has been to keep everything open during ongoing construction works.
Part of the new garden is already open. As the whole area will be adapted exclusively for pedestrians, the underground tunnels and parking spaces are also rebuilt.
One already open part of the new garden, baptised “Jardin Nelson Mandela”, offers some remarkable space for kids.
I think that many of us would have preferred that at least some of the Baltard pavillons could have remained. Of course the food commerce could not remain (it moved to Rungis in the suburbs), but the architecture could have offered a lot of creativity, possibilities… However, this is how things were handled in the 60’s and the 70’s. Let’s give the new “Les Halles” a fair chance!