Before Les Halles

Les Halles before renovation
Les Halles before renovation

Les Halles is Paris’ former central covered market.

Emile Zola called them Le Ventre de Paris – The Belly of Paris!

Eight centuries ago, the Rive Droite was a vast marsh left by a former meander of the Seine.

It was scarcely populated, with the exception of a few pockets such as the Knights Templar and Saint-Martin-des-Champs monasteries, and a small community by the Pont-Notre-Dame.

Les Halles – Foundation

The Rive Droite therefore provided all the space needed!

In the early 12th century, the old market on Place de Grève (Hôtel-de-Ville) struggled to meet the requirements of a growing city.

In 1135, King Louis le Gros therefore built a public market or Halle at a place known as Campelli (fields) then Les Champeaux to transfer it.

Les Halles before renovation
Before renovation

In 1183, Philippe-Auguste added two buildings for drapers, shoemakers, weavers and tinkers.

He also encompassed La Halle within the rampart he erected before leaving for the Crusades.

The first food stalls appeared in 1269.

King Louis IX commissioned the construction of three new buildings.

Two of them stood side by side and were devoted to the sale of the fish that arrived via the Chemin des Poissonniers.

The current Rue Poissonnière, Rue des Petits-Carreaux and Rue Montorgueil replace this ancient lane.

Finally, by 1284 shoemakers and leather workers had their own building.

Les Halles – Rive Droite

Les Halles triggered the development of the Rive Droite.

Les Halles before
Les Halles before

A busy district developed in their vicinity and the Chapel of Sainte-Agnès was built in 1213 to serve this new community.

Les Halles were open three days a week, on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

By 1553, Paris had once more expanded and Les Halles were obsolete.

New buildings were erected around a central square or Carreau, an area reserved for bread and dairy products stalls.

Halles de Baltard

The latest transformation occurred in the mid-19th century.

Les Halles de Baltard in 1863
Les Halles de Baltard in 1863

The architect Baltard, one of the pioneers of metal architecture, not only redeveloped and enlarged Les Halles, but he also transformed their layout.

Firstly, he added a new building for the grain, a commodity once essential.

The Cimetière des Innocents (current Place Joachim du Bellay) was decommissioned and the bones transferred to the Catacombes on Place Denfert-Rochereau.

The herbs and vegetables market took its place.

The wine and leather markets were transferred to the 13th district and the flower market to the Ile de la Cité.

Les Halles - Canopy under construction
Canopy under construction

Finally, two new buildings were added in 1936.

Les Halles de Baltard were highly controversial at the time of their construction, but eventually became one of the iconic buildings of Paris.

Sadly, they eventually become obsolete.

They were pulled down in the 1970s and the market transferred to Rungis in the southern outskirts of Paris.

Many defence groups failed to prevent their destruction, and sadly 800 years of history were annihilated in just a few months!

Forum des Halles

The Forum des Halles replaced the market in 1979.

Les Halles before renovation
Les Halles – Entrance before renovation

However, the glass and metal architecture of this 4000m2 complex triggered more controversy.

Many residents associations opposed in vain this project.

They argued that it destroyed the historical heart of Paris.

The Forum des Halles had 4 underground levels devoted to fashion boutiques, cinemas, restaurants, banks and a museum.

Huge arch-shaped glass roofs brought light into the lower levels.

It was connected to the underground metro station and RER (suburban train).

Not only was the Forum ugly, but also soon became a rallying point for young offenders!

As a result, nobody really dared to venture there late at night, and the Forum consequently became a no-go zone!

La Canopée

The City of Paris therefore invested in an ambitious redevelopment program in order to rehabilitate the area.

Les Halles - new entrance under canopy
Les Halles – new entrance under canopy

The architects Patrick Berger and Jacques Anziutti designed La Canopée.

The vast undulating roof shelters theatres, banks, museums, restaurants and shops distributed on five floors laid out around a central courtyard.

However, their architectural project caused even more controversy than the Forum and the Halles de Baltard put together!

The construction still went ahead, but encountered several issues that affected the construction schedule.

As a result, Les Halles were a huge construction site for the past few years!

The Canopée was eventually completed in 2016.

Directions: 1st District
Metro station: Châtelet-Les Halles on Line4 and RER A,B, D
Coordinates: Lat 48.862480 – Long 2.346381

Photo via Wikimedia Commons: Halles de Baltard is in Public domain usa

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