Victor Baltard had already designed Les Halles, his radical central market in Paris, which eschewed a stone exterior for steel with brick infill. Sadly, Les Halles was demolished in 1971 and replaced by a shopping mall, Forum des Halles, on top of a major subway station. Baltard’s original building is echoed in Renzo Piano and Richard Rodger’s Centre Pompidou, opened in January 1977.
The failed Forum des Halles is currently being reworked to the designs of SEURA Architects with Philippe Raguin Landscape, as well as Patrick Berger and Jacques Anziutti Architects. The central feature of the design is a vast new park. The market halls at Les Halles welcomed the produce of the countryside to Paris on a daily basis – now on its footprint there will be a park that brings the countryside into Paris – through a design that celebrates ‘naturalness.’ One can only hope that this park will provide a source of urban energy that the institution of the markets did.
This energy was evident on our visit in Narbonne. Even though the market was in the process of closing up – stalls being washed down, tarp that wrapped the stalls being drawn – one could feel the energy of this dynamic place. The market cafes were in full swing, with merchants visiting each other.
The market has a spacious organization, with stalls generally open on three sides in the interior run. This results in a plan where only two stalls are backed up to each other and there is a significant amount of cross circulation. As a result, each stall has a significant presence in the market.