Paris - Ile De France
Les Halles - Historical district - Paris
Before Les Halles
Les Halles is Paris former covered market and has left its name to this popular area.
Emile Zola called it 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.
A small community had also developed by the Pont-Notre-Dame; Paris was indeed expanding!
Les Halles - Foundation
The Rive Droite provided all the space needed!
In 1135 King Louis le Gros therefore commissioned the construction of a public market or Halle at a place known as Campelli (fields) then Les Champeaux.
By 1143 the old market of the Place de Grève (Hôtel-de-Ville) could no longer meet the requirements of a growing city.
It was consequently transferred to Les Champeaux.
In 1183 Philippe-Auguste built two buildings for drapers, shoemakers, weavers and tinkers.
The king encompassed La Halle within the ramparts he erected before leaving for the Crusades.
In 1269 the first food stalls appeared.
King Louis IX commissioned the construction of three new buildings.
Two of these buildings stood side by side.
They were dedicated 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
The success of Les Halles consequently triggered the development of the Rive Droite.
The Chapel of Sainte-Agnès was built in 1213.
Soon an entire village then a district developed in its vicinity.
As a result, Les Halles were open three days a week, on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
However, the market needed a major update.
The old buildings were demolished in 1553.
The new ones encompassed a central square known as Carreau, an area reserved for the bread and dairy products stalls.
Paris kept expanded through the centuries and Les Halles were enlarged once more in 1788.
Halles de Baltard
The latest transformation occurred in the mid-19th century.
The architect Baltard, one of the pioneers of metal architecture, not only redeveloped and enlarged Les Halles, but he also transformed the layout.
Firstly, he added a new building for the grain, a commodity once essential.
The herbs and vegetables market took its place.
The wine and leather markets were transferred to the 13th district.
Finally, two new buildings were added in 1936.
The architecture of Les Halles de Baltard, as the market became known, was highly controversial at the time of its construction.
However, it became one of the iconic buildings of Paris.
Sadly, the Halles de Baltard eventually become obsolete for an ever-growing city.
As a result, the City of Paris pulled it down in the 1970s.
Many defence groups failed to prevent the inevitable.
Eight-hundred years of history were therefore annihilated in just a few months by the mechanical diggers.
This was the history of generations of men and women who lived and worked in the covered market.
Les Halles market was consequently transferred to Rungis in the south of Paris.
Forum des Halles
The Forum des Halles replaced it in 1979.
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 four underground levels with fashion boutiques, cinemas, restaurants, banks and a museum.
Huge arch-shaped glass roofs brought light into the lower levels.
Finally, 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!
The City of Paris therefore invested in an ambitious redevelopment program in order to rehabilitate the area.
Patrick Berger and Jacques Anziutti are the architects of La Canopée, which should have been completed in 2014.
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 has been a huge construction site for the past few years!
The Canopée was completed in 2016.
Theatres, banks and museums, restaurants and shops now spread on five floors that overlook a central courtyard.
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 by PD-US is in Public domain usa
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