This week was unveiled a vast and keenly awaited new building in the center of Paris. While the new Les Halles brings new amenities to Parisians and is without doubt an improvement on what was there before, it is also rife with failings and missed opportunities.
The Place Joachim du Bellay, a stone’s throw from Les Halles, is a popular crossroads for people to just hang out. But unbeknownst to many of its current users, this little square has an extraordinarily deep and textured history. It is a premiere example of how Paris today is the sum of many layers of remarkable and at times unexpected history.
Many people, especially those who knew the old market pavilions designed by Victor Baltard in the 1850s, have affection for the site of Les Halles. For thirty years, the site has been occupied by a hideous shopping center of reflective glass. Now, that page is being turned.