During the city’s last gasp of Indian Summer earlier this month, I was strolling down the Rue Montorgeuil enjoying a scoop of gelato when I came upon a lovely site. The enormous green and yellow construction barricades can’t hide the gradual destruction of one of the city’s ugliest monuments, the Forum des Halles
For many centuries (a phrase you strangely get used to saying when you live here) Les Halles was home to the city’s central food market. Emile Zola called it The Belly of Paris. Under Haussmann’s reconstruction of Paris during the Second Empire (1850-1870) the market was modernized with the addition of ten glass and iron Pavillons de Baltard, each one devoted to a different market product: grains, fruits and vegetables, meat, fish, etc.
But by 1969 this wholesale market in the center of town was overcrowded, unhygienic according to modern standards, and simply not big enough to handle the city’s needs. The market was moved to the suburb of Rungis (near Orly airport), and the pavillions were torn down.
The 1970s, in my humble opinion, was a decade of general architectural stupidity in Paris. Former Mayor Chirac and Presidents Pompidou and Giscard d’Estaing can be thanked for approving some of the more atrocious changes to the city such as the express-ways along the Seine and the high-rise housing developments on the outer edges of the city, but the Forum des Halles — right in the center of the 1st arrondissement — takes the cake as the biggest eyesore in town.