On 6 April, La Canopée (The Canopy), the ‘new heart of Paris’ was opened to the public, completing the first out of a three-stage Les Halles redevelopment project. After nine years of its design and construction, the Canopy with three stories and three basements emerged as a public place for both commerce and cultural facilities. Although Les Halles, the biggest transport hub in Paris is busy with 750,000 passengers a day, the environment is not friendly due to its outdated facilities. Ville de Paris made an announcement of the Les Halles renovation in 2002 and invested astronomical amount of capital and time to revive this area as the new heart of Paris. Planned to take place until 2018, the Chârtelet-Les Halles Station and the garden will be refurbished to complete the redevelopment. SPACE introduced the Canopy design in an interview with Patrick Berger in July 2014 issue. This report will review a completed the Canopy with on-the-scene reporting to reveal the vivid voice of this mega public project.
materials provided by Patrick Berger & Jacques Anziutti Architects (Unless otherwise indicated)
Dynamics and Continuity of the Urban Project
Jong-Jin Park (principal, jongjin park architect)
‘Incomplete Mutation’ — Between Collective Memory and History
Les Halles in Paris has been at the commercial crossroads of Paris since the Middle Ages, as the site of stock exchange as well as of an important marketplace. The district was radically transformed over the years due to population increase, while maintaining a delicate coexistence with several landmarks and monuments nearby. The recent evolution of the sector saw the displacement of markets and demolition of the pavilions. In the nineteenth century, Émile Zola famously described Les Halles as the the belly of Paris, but its image as the ‘pit of Paris’ took hold after the 1970s due to the underground development of the RER station and shopping mall construction. The new Forum project comprises five multileveled underground meeting and exchange spaces, including new cultural and sports components completed in 1986. In the thirty years that followed, the area has witnessed the degradation of its physical facilities. Hence, the Mayor of Paris has launched a design competition for Les Halles redevelopment. David Mangin (co-managing partner, SEURA architectes) won the competition for the overall plan, followed by Patrick Berger who designed two competition-winning proposals: the Canopy (2007) for the new Forum des Halles and Châtelet-Les Halles Station (2008) for an in-depth renovation of the underground interchange platforms and connections, plus a new entrance. The quartier is thus being given a more dynamic public place in which above-ground and underground circulation is meshed. Witnessing this constant mutation stimulates us to wonder, what kind of urban project would be appropriate for tomorrow?
Point of Convergence & Divergence: New Entrance to Greater Paris
The question of ‘how urban flow can be read and distributed?’ is one of the most basic and fundamental questions for urban planners. Other questions involve the ‘localization’ and ‘value and effect’ of grand public projects. Compared to the earlier Forum project focused on the concentration and activation of underground public transportation and commerce, the Canopy of the new Forum des Halles proposes a multi-use public place that supplies a seamless flow linkage between its upper floors and downside underground floors. It also reorients pedestrian flow along an east-west axis across the entire redevelopment site. More than 750,000 passengers per day traverse the Châtelet-Les Halles interchange from all directions, utilizing diverse public transport services such as the Iles de France, Paris Banlieue, plus inner-city and two airport lines. It’s an absolute convergence point on a metropolitan scale. Thus, the new Canopy at this hotspot has become the new entrance to Greater Paris. Under its open roof, passengers from underground go through the Patio and converge naturally with pedestrians at ground level. With the Bourse de Commerce and the Canopy at opposite extremes, pedestrian traffic is directed through the garden area. This connection between the garden and the redesigned platform and other underground links throughout the Canopy will have a strong and positive influence for the whole Les Halles quartier.
Under One Roof, a Complex System
‘Programme’ is indeed a decisive keyword for urban redevelopment on a grand scale and for regeneration projects. Hence, the programming of activities in the spaces beneath the new Canopy are directly linked to the realities of urban dynamics. With the increase in pedestrian traffic, commercial and cultural facilities have been reorganized and expanded such as new open art and cultural spaces for all social classes, especially directed toward adolescents and young adults from Paris and the banlieue. They include a multimedia library, a hip-hop centre, artistic rehearsal spaces for professionals and amateurs, a conservatory, and kiosks for adolescents (run by the City of Paris), all of which produce a melting pot that will yield more productive and dynamic activities. The easy access and spatial continuity around these activities will be essential to the positive energies fostered here. These activities are housed in a space comprising three consecutive layers, including two wing-shaped galleries, and a Y-shaped semi-open street and patio under an open-air roof. Extending toward the gardens and underground passageways, it encapsulates an ample public space composed of both void and solid elements. Most of all, the ‘circulation effect’ of the multi-leveled central plaza with patio and pedestrian areas transforms the site into an open theater for pop-ups, events, and displays in synergy with the commercial and cultural facilities.
The Canopy are composed of three consecutive layers, including two wing-shaped galleries, and a Y-shaped semi-open street and patio under an open-air roof.
Morphogenesis, Motif and Form
In nature, animals, plants, or minerals assume their own primitive forms through the interaction with inner and outer environments. In this process, a geometric motif simultaneously emerges and develops, and produces an optimized result in its process of transformation and self-realization. All this corresponds to a physical mechanism known as ‘morphogenesis’. So, the actual form of the construction itself emerges from this interaction with environmental and physical constraints. The form of the Canopy follows the same principles and it comes from extensive process of experimentation and research. First, the architect’s repetitive free hand drawings led to the search for and discovery of the basic geometry that resolves the site’s complex requirements and conditions: various movements, structural questions, environmental restrictions and so on. The geometric motif of a ‘floating volumetric band’ similar to seaweed moving in rough streams was contemplated during this process. Roughly curved lines were adapted into repetitive strips that were long and sinuous, and twisted at different angles. This process gave rise to the dynamic horizon and open roof of the Canopy. Numerous model studies permitted the verification of physical sensations based on perception. At same time, computer simulation tests confirmed the general geometries of the project. Intuitive phrases such as ‘curvilinear lines’, ‘fluidity’, and ‘organic form’ can help describing the essentials of the Canopy. Otherwise, the project can be described as a sort of ‘emergent form’ that looks like a growing plant pushing up from the underground and spreading to the site’s gardens due to the abundant energies of the quartier of Les Halles.
Art of Material: Metal and Glass
The Les Halles quartier, surrounded by stone buildings and monuments, now assumes a new image thanks to a continuity between the curvilinear metallic roof structure of the Canopy with three iconic ‘metal’ buildings: the memorial Baltard Pavilion, the huge dome of the Bourse du Commerce, and the exposed structure of the Centre Georges Pompidou. Each structure was realised according to the different constraints and requirements of its respective era. In the case of the Canopy, it was
crucial that, during construction, no interruption should be made to the daily activities of the transport hub, Forum, and shopping areas. Furthermore, the project was based on two different types of volumes and their assembly. What was achieved was a delicate cohesion between two functional constructions on the north and south areas, with an an ‘art piece’ in the centre: namely, an open roof structure embracing the huge patio volume. First of all, the existing 72 load-bearing elements were designated as the base of the new structures. Prefabricated structural pieces in metal were designed, taking into account their lightness, durability, and timeliness of delivery, then superimposed on the underground structures. The U-shaped metal tubes opening towards the garden are delicately supported on only 12 points. They sustain the 15 fish beams varying in span from 45m to 96m. These fish beams are a sophisticated structural system combining a couple of double-curved circular tubes (60 – 80 cm diameter) with an in-between arch-shaped substructure. The height and twisted angles of the coupled beams modifies successively with the varying span distance. The total glass surface of the structure covers more than 2.4 hectares. The surface is constituted by 18,000 individual plate panels (1.1 – 1.7m module). Each panel is a laminated glass composite with a special surface treatment. The top layer is a 6mm thick floating glass pane with relief treatment upside and painted with sand-toned ceramic downside to minimize glare and soiling. Another layer is a 10mm toughened low-iron glass plate allowing different transmissibility (15 – 45%) with in-between safety film. The glass surfaces protect the plaza from raindrops and filter solar radiance. The openings between the glass surfaces ensure the natural ventilation and extraction of smoke in case of fire. The relief and slope of the roof panels will permit the accumulation and recycling of rainwater capable of cleaning the glass surfaces, creating a central draining system that acts as a cascade under the roof. The Canopy’s curvilinear global silhouette, with repetitive glass panels and metal frames seen from a distance, plus perceptive textures on the glass, all combine to provoke different visual experiences during the course of the day. A dramatic, dynamic and pleasing atmosphere is induced by the juxtaposition of spatial compression and ejection effects under the light, hanging structure.
For Another Promenade in Paris’ Everyday-Life
Patrick Berger’s earlier sketches on different scales show an identical organic motif: a floating leaf. This represents a convergent centre for Greater Paris, a symbol of underground flow and of shelter. A simple idea born out of profound reflection has blossomed into the Canopy, a complex system with space for cultural and commercial activities: a veritable public hive with diverse participations. However, critics have noted that the total budget for the redevelopment of the site has amounted to more than 1 billion EUR. There have been subjective opinions about the dissimilarities in form or colour.
The newly reorganized structural and aesthetic unity of the Les Halles complex is thus composed of renovated underground facilities and gardens, anchored by the Bourse de Commerce and the Canopy. These elements are expected to help the site and its surroundings breathe and flourish as a new site for the urban promenade — an important link in the chain between major public spaces in Paris.
Jong-Jin Park earned a Master’s degree in Art and Architecture under the direction of Prof. Patrick Berger and Prof. Inès Lamunière at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (Thesis and Project: Une promenade vers un Paris insulaire). From 2005 to 2010, he worked in the laboratory UTA (Lab. Projet Urban, Territorial et Architectural) of Prof. P. Berger (EPFL) as teaching assistant for Master design studio and as collaborator for project ‘Morphogenesis’. After obtaining his Ph.D.’s degree in 2010, he worked as architect and urban planner for Devanthéry Lamunière achitects, Atelier Bonnet, FDMP architects in Geneva. Besides, as an independent he have participated to several architectural and urban design competitions and researches.
The Canopy: Three Families Sharing One Roof in Les Halles
Kim Seokwon (design principal, kyosk+pop architects)
The inauguration ceremony of the Canopy, the first stage of the redevelopment of Les Halles in downtown Paris was held on 6 April. Hoardings promoting the rebirth of Les Halles under the guidance of the phrase of Le Nouveau Coeur de Paris were already everywhere in Paris. But the site was still messy due to ongoing construction work and many people were taking pictures of the Canopy on the observation platform. Soldiers and policemen armed with machine guns were patrolling not only the site of the inauguration ceremony but also whole area of Les Halles due to the recent terror attacks in Paris, which generated a kind of tension here.
The first impression of the Canopy, new face of Les Halles may not seem fresh to people who are already accustomed to such a large structure. The huge canopy made of 96m wide steel megastructure is painted in yellowish hue and the French media have criticized this color severely by likening it to dishwater or rancid butter. The roof is covered with about 18,000 glass panels and is diagonally open to allow light, wind, and even rain into the space below. A few days after completion, some people complained about puddles here and there from the rain.
The Canopy’s huge column-free space, which is the reminder of international airports and exhibition halls, seems familiar to people and the shops of famous brands like Nike and Lego make it another typical place. Considering the disappoint of those who try to find the Paris described in The Belly of Paris by Émile Zola, it may seem a case of non-place, which can be found in every corner of the world. Only the Church of St Eustace and Bourse de Commerce near the Canopy tell that this area was the site of Les Halles market boasting of 900-year old history.
The redevelopment history of Les Halles which has taken 12 years and can be dated to 150 years ago, reminds one of the new Seoul City Hall project which needed several competitions to decide the final design and Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) which provoked controversy on the issue how to reconcile design of new building with historical site. The strong intention of the then mayors of Seoul enabled both of the buildings to be realised as it is but the debates are still raging, which is similar in the case of Les Halles.
A malfunctioning market was moved to suburban area in 1960s and the market buildings were demolished, which also erased the memory of Les Halles. It was left as an ugly hole for some decades and in the late 1970s it was reborn as Forum des Halles, an underground shopping centre combined with transport system of three RER lines, five Metro lines, and underground roads. However, this underground city of 75,000 passengers a day became chaotic due to tangled labyrinthine passageways underground and the poor circulation of pedestrians disrupted by car traffic on the ground, and gardens on the ground became a hotbed of crime as it was cut off from underground, which raised the voice of redevelopment of this area.
At last, an international design competition for the redevelopment of Les Halles was held in 2004 and star-architects such as Jean Nouvelle, OMA, MVRDV, etc. suggested various solutions to the problem of the underground city. The winning project was drafted by David Mangin who proposed the easiest way; keep the function of existing underground space and combine all of the facilities together. His proposal was to expand the route to connect underground space with the ground and to put a lid on it lightly. Another design competition based on the Mangin’s proposal was held later and Patrick Berger’s the Canopy was selected as the final design.
Recently completed, the Canopy is the first stage of Les Halles renovation project. The landscape of the garden and road rearrangement is still going on and scheduled to finish respectively in 2017 and 2018. While the public project for the masses is bound to have cons and pros for its design and colouring, and to be criticized for the increase of cost and delay of construction, this is also the common problem of large scale projects, and the redevelopment of Les Halles has one more point to be considered.
The implementation of this project cost an astronomical amount of money: 1 billion EUR. Considering that enormous level of public finance was spent on the project, which will become the most important landmark in 21st century Paris, we must ascertain who will benefit most. As we can see the fact that the Canopy is already occupied by a restaurant run by multi-stared chef and flagship store of famous brands, the range of shops which can cope with rent here is bound to be limited to top-class ones. Although it is good thing that redevelopment reduces the crime rate and attracts more tourists here, in the long term this may cause gentrification which expels shops that cannot cope with the sharply increased rents in this area. We have to observe what will happen with the commercial situation around the Canopy.
Besides, this building accommodates cultural programmes for the public such as a library, a hip-hop centre, and a conservatory, but I doubt whether it can work properly as they are placed on the second and third floors separated from the pedestrian route on the ground floor. But of course, the ground floor and the first and second basements, which are easily accessible by pedestrians, are occupied by various shops. If this place is to function as a magnet to give adjacent area boost rather than a black hole to devour everything, it is necessary to continue further discussion.
However, the principal beneficiary of this project seems to be politicians. When large public projects nearly disappear these days, to inscribe one’s name on the achievement in the most used facility of central Paris may be irresistible temptation. A masterpiece that will live in perpetuity would be much better but the problem is always cost.
Nevertheless, one positive aspect of the Canopy is that at least it is not an isolate island. In this sense, it contrasts to the DDP which is surrounded by wide roads with more than four lanes and has shops accessible from the ground only on its north side. While the DDP is a sculpture-like building, the Canopy seems to be a building-like sculpture. Compared to COEX in Seoul, which became more confusing after recent renovations, the Canopy is an exemplar in improving a user’s convenience by making an active link between underground space and the ground. On the other hand, it is feared that the recently announced proposal for Yeongdong street underground city development in Seoul will repeat the same mistake of Les Halles forty years ago. We should learn a lesson from this case.
When I saw this project, which gathers the three families of commerce, culture, and transport under one roof of the Canopy, one word came across my mind; healing. A sticking plaster is applied to a deep wound which became infected due to a faulty medical practice, until covered by new skin. Although the Canopy is too heavy to remove, particularly while the wound recovers, I hope that wind and light through the gaps between glass panels will cure old injury of Les Halles. The completion of the Canopy is just the start of the long healing process.
Kim Seokwon, a registered Architect of Korea, graduated from Seoul National University and receiving his Bachelor and Master degrees. He graduated from the Bartlett, UCL, earning his MArch Degrees, and received his MA in Histories and Theories in AA school. He worked for SPACE Group carrying out urban projects in Korea, Algeria, Vietnam, and Colombia and taught in Seoul National University, Sejong University, etc. Finishing his doctoral coursework in SNU, he is now staying in Paris to carry out research into an experimental comparison study of cities as a member of KLM architectural and urban research group.
Châtelet-Les Halles Station, Exit Saint-Honoré from the station
Architect: Patrick Berger & Jacques Anziutti Architects (Patrick Berger, Jacques Anziutti)
Architectural design: Patrick Berger
Chief assistants: Mathieu Mercuriali
Technical assistants: G. Sellier, O. Musset
Site assistants: V. Grage, C. Teuschl, K. Jannot, A.Lebret (in 2015)
Site total surface: 16,875m2
Site total length: 145m
Site width: 125m
Construction height: 14m, 50m
Roof surface: 18,000m2
Envelope surface: 25,000m2
Structure, fluids, economy engineering: I ngérop conseil, ingéniérie
Envelope and elevations engineering: Arcora, Emmer Pfenninger
Acoustic Engineering: Acv
High environmental quality engineering: Base consultants
Glass master engineering: Emmanuel Barrois
Fountain master engineering: J-M Lorca
Project management: Ville de Paris
Châtelet-Les Halles Station
Architect: Patrick Berger & Jacques Anziutti Architects (Patrick Berger, Jacques Anziutti)
Architectural design: Patrick Berger
Design assistants: Julien Abinal, Mathieu Andrieu, Mathieu Mercuriali
Site assistants: M. Aurenche, A. Feuillade
Hub area: 7,000m2
Length: 160m (unchanged)
Width with gallery: 68m
Ceiling height: 3m (unchanged)
Project management: Regie Autonome des Transports Parisiens (RATP)