Hope for Les Halles? Or Just Another Empty Belly?

Once called “Le Ventre de Paris (The Belly of Paris),” Les Halles was the central market of Paris until the 1970’s, when economic pressures forced local merchants to evacuate for the suburbs. It’s been struggling to find an identity ever since. Things started looking up in 2004 when, despite a failure to choose an architect for the Forum, David Mangin’s “banally tasteful vision of Modernity” was selected as the Masterplan for the new Les Halles – over riskier proposals from Rem Koolhaas, Jean Nouvel, and MVRDV.

Now, 3 years later, a new scheme has been selected. Design by French architects Patrick Berger and Jacques Anziutti, The Les Halles Forum will take the shape of an underwhelming glass canopy. In a brief article, The New York times makes it clear that doubt continues to hover around Les Halles:

The so-called Forum and the gardens that replaced the 12 pavilions have never been popular…

…failure has been the zone’s leitmotif.

If it really is built, the design by Patrick Berger and Jacques Anziutti…

The structure, which in a model has a greenish-yellow color supposedly inspired by vegetation…

The principal novelty will be a so-called patio…

…the patience of the nearly 300 million people who go through Les Halles each year will no doubt be sorely tested.

In that sense, (Mayor) Delanoe’s own image may not be safe for another five years.

Despite a history of failed designs, will this new Les Halles satiate Paris? We’ll find out in 2012, when the project is slated for completion.

  • For Paris, the Newest Look Is a Canopy [The New York Times]