A new Les Halles rises in the center of Paris and a Hip Hop Center is planned for the new development
In mid-2011, we reported on the battle over the architectural plans for Les Halles, the contentious redevelopment project at the center of Paris. David Mangin’s winning plan, which had both political and popular support, may not have been the most architecturally daring, but it was perhaps the most socially acceptable. Regarding the design, New York Times architectural critic, Nicolai Ouroussof, wrote, “Arab and African immigrants from those neighborhoods have made the underground mall one of the most profitable in the city. Keeping them trapped underground serves the interests of developers and soothes the fears of the gentrified classes that live nearby.”
In our opinion, Les Halles is one of the most interesting places in the city where the convergence of the regional RER train lines in Paris leads to a unique juxtaposition of cultures—precisely the uncomfortable mixing that is likely going to be swept away with the redesign. Perhaps as a way to counteract criticism of white-washing, a Hip Hop Center (Centre Hip Hop Aux Halles) is part of the programming of the new Les Halles, which will open at the end of 2014.
The Hip-Hop Center, as described by the website of the city of Paris (translated):
In these new facilities, a cultural center of 1500 m² dedicated to hip-hop will emerge. Designed as a place for living, working and sharing, the center will reflect the cultural hip-hop movement.
A world capital of hip-hop, Paris will now be equipped with a transdisciplinary center which will allow both the spread of hip-hop to the general public, the transmission of knowledge and skills, and the support of young artists. The hip-hop cultural center at Les Halles will host artists in residence and include business incubator projects.
The public has been asked to submit names for the Hip-Hop Center, and as of today, there are 1479 submissions (some are duplicates) which can be viewed publicly on this street style-inspired website. The final decision will be announced at the end of June.
Statistics on crime in Paris can be difficult to come by for the foreign press, something the New York Times also reported on as early as 1990, when it wrote that “The Prefecture de Police’s success in keeping Paris safe, however, is not matched by its efficiency with statistics.” The US Department of State recommends extra precautions at Les Halles after dark, but also says most crimes in France are non-violent. Today, fear of crime in Les Halles seems mostly through hearsay, as evidenced by concerned travelers on online forums. Walking around Les Halles around midnight earlier this month, we found nothing of concern. Rather, the area at that hour was more notable for its low levels of activity, contained within bars and restaurants, rather than any overt threats.
Redevelopment projects in Paris are usually accompanied by well-produced communication centers, such as the exhibition on plans for the new Samaritaine department store along the Seine. The new Les Halles project is no exception, with a pop-up building dedicated to communicating its plans located at the Place Joachim du Bellay, next to the Fountaine des Innocents at the corner of Rue Berger and Rue Pierre-Lescot.
The exhibition includes a model with peep-holes to see renderings of the project, 3D videos, and descriptions of the history at Les Halles.
Get in touch with the author @untappedmich.