Some 35 years ago I visited Les Halles for the first time; I was a small kid, but I remember going out of a then brand new RER through a hole (set to later become the central court), and seeing on the background the church of Saint Eustache. The commercial centre is open in 1979, at the most central spot of the Paris public transportation system. Vasconi and Pencreac’h’s architecture has not aged well, and in 2004 the City of Paris held a competition to renovate the commercial centre and the associated underground city, which extends under the garden up to the Bourse du Commerce.
David Mangin’s project, winner of the competition held in 2004 to choose an urban planning scheme for the scope of what one were the Halles, or central market, has been critized; it is too early to evaluate its qualities, but it is no doubt a clear change. The images in this post portray a particular element of the planning scheme, the Canopée+Pôle Transport project, which concerns the architecture of the large glass structure over the main court of the present mall and its connection to the underground station, and is being built according to the project by Patrick Berger and Jacques Anziutti Architectes. Works have three interest points: on one side, the glass canopy that will cover the “hole” to the underground. On the other side, the works while the commercial centre stays open “as usual” (not often well solved, but it is not an easy job). Finally, the large concentration of temporary structures for the different specialists working on the project, which seems at first sight a housing project. In some months the results will be seen; now you can already see the green spaces organized in a more informal way.
As a comparison element, maps at the same scale (overlay grid is 100 m) of Les Halles (previous configuration, with a sketchy red outline for the Canopy), and of the Puerta del Sol in Madrid, that after the opening of the new Cercanías (a system like RER in Paris or BART in San Francisco) plays a similar urban role, albeit with a more traditional architecture.