Forum des Halles

1st Arrondissement
Paris, France

Contributed by Project for Public Spaces

An underground shopping mall in the heart of Paris, topped by a failed park.


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Why It Doesn't Work

Forum des Halles derives its name from the historic market structures (Les Halles, affectionately remembered as "the stomach of Paris") that were demolished to make way for the nearby Centre Pompidou. It is hard to imagine a space more dissimilar from its namesake.

Forum des Halles is essentially a subterranean mall; it completely disorients you from the real city on the surface. To experience a city is to be aware of one place flowing into another, to encounter a staggering variety of stimuli continually flowing all around you. But traversing Forum des Halles is a deadening experience; every time through we have been gripped by the urge to leave as quickly as possible.

It is covered aboveground by a park that no one ever seems to visit, consisting of a fussy, unconnected set of elements. We encountered the ultimate sign of a failed space at one of the entranceways, where we found some of the most overt drug-dealing we have ever witnessed in Paris.

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