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21.1.08

Les Halles - Paris 1980










Random pix of Les Halles, Paris from "Actuel" magazine, 1980. The Belly of Paris," Émile Zola's novel set in and around Les Halles in the late 1850's, vividly evokes the pungent smells, sights, sounds and tastes of the city's marketplace. Les Halles had long served Paris as its nutritional epicenter, in essence, its stomach. Zola wrote: "Then there came three Brie cheeses displayed on round platters and looking like melancholy extinct moons. Two of them, very dry, were at the full; the third, in its second quarter, was melting away in a white cream." Yet Les Halles was far more than a marketplace, and when the demands of expansion and congestion forced the relocation of the market in the late 1960's, the historian Louis Chevalier somberly proclaimed, "With Les Halles gone, Paris is gone." Quashing a protracted debate over the site, Jacques Chirac, then the mayor, took charge, declaring that what was needed was not a monumental gesture but "accompaniment architecture." The outcome was the utterly banal Forum des Halles shopping mall and transit hub, completed in 1979. Although 800,000 commuters move through this space every day and another 100,000 people come to shop, swim, watch movies or just hang out, for a quarter century Paris has mostly ignored its former belly.
Big up to Farid!
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