When I moved to Paris in 1973, the “Les Halles” polemics were still in full swing. As far as I know, nobody really contested the fact that the old markets had to leave the center of Paris, but many people seemed to believe that the old pavilions could be saved and turned into other uses. Actually, in 2010, I’m sure that a city like Paris would not have the slightest difficulty finding cultural uses for such buildings, but god knows what on earth they could have done with them in 1969 when they closed on February 28. Saint Eustache (you’ll see it soon) was the church on the edge of Les Halles, and one of its little chapels is devoted to the departure of the market on 28 February 1969. The new market opened in the suburb of Rungis on March 3rd, 1969.
Les Halles took up a pretty big section of the 1st arrondissement. It was remarkably symmetric for Paris, a city that despises symmetry.
Oh, I’m sure it had a certain charm, but it had even more rats.
The buildings stood empty for a few years, and then the demolition began.
When the area was completely barren is when I arrived. And what happened next was called "Le Trou des Halles" (the Les Halles hole) for several years.
I do remember the hole and was very sad not to have seen Les Halles and sadder still (yes, back then) that it hadn't been saved. No, not out of "nostalgie de la boue" or romantic ignorance of modern sanitation or the needs of the huge city Paris had become in terms of wholesale markets. I believe Rungis is convenient to long-distance-trucking, air freight and rail. But many cities have conserved their central market for retail and many other purposes.
I haven't been there for quite a few years. I hated Le Forum des Halles (both the cookie-cutter retail and the fucked-up street kids) and the gardens were among the saddest modern Paris parks and gardens I've seen. I know there have been further renovations but it is hard to undo such an error in urbanism. I think of the old slaughterhouses at La Villette that have been successfully repurposed, and this is pretty much dead centre in Paris!
Sad to rip out the trees now that they have grown. They weren't big and beautiful like that when I last happened to go there (I wasn't there on any visit to Paris in recent years). Seems to me they could have simply reorganised the park a bit, but those Parisians love their "grands projets".
Lagatta, massive makeovers of Paris hark back almost 2000 years. Just as there used to be 3 islands instead of 2, the Pont Neuf used to be covered with houses. So this sort of thing will go on forever.
A few photos to say goodbye to the current version of the Jardin des Halles...
Wow, Kerouac...thanks so much for putting the whole des Halles in a historical context. But are those photos in # 4-6 of what is happening right now? And not from before...wow, they move rather quick when they get going.
Last Edit: May 23, 2010 21:29:01 GMT by greyghost1
They have to move fast because there is so much litigation. Naturally people always try to save the trees. It makes no difference to know that there will be twice as many trees as before -- some people simply cannot abide the removal of trees. They don't mind about bums being evicted, but trees, no way!
Perhaps Paris is too large, wealthy, and sophisticated to go in for this particular form of corruption, but petty thieves such as Louisiana politicians and the present governor of Oaxaca know that "the money is in cement". That is to say, you can hide an awful lot of dubious money exchange within a public works project.
Even when they were built, the umbrella buildings were rather tacky - they looked like a somewhat pretentious suburban shopping mall. A shopping concourse in that setting needs to be better attuned to the surrounding buildings. And Paris has some splendid contemporary buildings. Some duds as well.
I still think most of the trees should be conserved. Trees are living beings. I know they have to be cut for some purposes, but they should be respected if possible.
Since all of this will go on for several years, they are setting up some temporary areas for people to use next spring.
Today, there was a flea market on the main alleyways.
It looks to me like French junk is exactly the same as junk in every other country. I'm sure there are some major national variations, though. A French flea market probably has many more corkscrews than those in other countries, and of course demi-tasse format cups rather than mugs. An American flea market is sure to have a lot of useless high school or bowling trophies to unload. I've never been to an English flea market, but something tells me that I would find a lot of teapots and tea towels there.
Here's a treasure I had not seen in years -- cigar boxes!
So much of this stuff should just go directly in the trash!
There were plenty of people, though, and it wasn't even 11 a.m. yet.
Kerouac, without doubt you are our ‘Paris expert’, but it seems that you arrived after les Halles was banished to the suburbs. I wonder if anyone here saw les Halles at it's zenith in centre Paris?
I have read much about the market in its’ vibrant lifespan and deeply regret that I missed it. Perhaps rats abounded, but the life of the market seemed rich and fascinating….the market itself, the vendors, the morning set up and the local cafes the vendors would retire to for breakfast and after close of the market. I think that the best book to read for our closest (only?) remaining link to the actual ‘sense’ of les Halles is Le Ventre de Paris (The Belly of Paris) by Emile Zola, published in 1873.
I found the current use of the area (in 2007) totally depressing, especially the dreadful Forum des Halles, which reminded me of Toronto’s Eaton centre, only more ghastly. Rats in a maze. The minimal use of gardens on ground level was tolerable, but remarkably unimpressive for the centre of Paris. Thus, I’m thrilled at this attempt to redesign the area. Paris is historically outstanding for its remarkable design shifts and succeeds both in maintaining historical design and integrating the vibrantly contemporary. I look forward to the redesign.
I love the photos you took of the flea market in the main alleyways today. Yes, junk is junk, but it’s entertaining and a pleasureable way to spend a few hours. Thank you for this and I hope you will tell us more.
Le ventre de Paris (The Belly of Paris) is the finest glimpse of the market of les Halles.
I enjoyed that video, thanks for that update. I can't understand why they insist on using so mach glass. If its like the last version the glass gets and stays filthy with bird droppings and so forth. Ah well. May be it's to see all the drug selling that is supposed to be taking place. When we stayed at the Aparthotel there a few years ago I actually enjoyed walking over to the markets and shops every morning and never felt any thing to be concerned about. But then there was a huge police presence on roller blades and they were fast too.
The main diagonal passage through the park is now closed (even if one of the barriers was blown down in the high winds today). All of the above-ground buildings at Les Halles are supposed to be torn down in April.