AFTER FOURTEEN YEARS of planning and five years of construction work, La Canopée des Halles was officially opened on 5th April.
Designed by the architects Patrick Berger and Jacques Anziutti, La Canopée is a gigantic 7,000-ton steel structure shaped in vegetable-inspired curves covering nearly 2.5 hectares of Les Halles in the 1st arrondissement.
La Canopée stands on the site of the traditional central market of Paris dating from 1183. In the 1850s, Victor Baltard designed the famous glass and iron pavilions, Les Halles, which featured in Émile Zola’s novel Le Ventre de Paris, (The Belly of Paris), set in the busy market of the 19th century.
View of Les Halles from Saint-Eustache in 1870
In the 1970s, the Les Halles market closed and moved out to Rungis on the outskirts of the city. All of Baltard’s glass and iron pavilions were dismantled, save for two which survived and have since been re-erected, one in the Paris suburb of Nogent-sur-Marne and the other in Yokohama, Japan.
The Baltard Pavilion at Nogent-sur-Marne
The closure of Les Halles left a vacuum, a vacuum filled by an eminently forgettable spasm of 1970s urban renewal – a claustrophobic underground shopping mall and flimsy street-level pavilions.
Speaking at the Canopée opening ceremony, Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris said, “We had to fix this broken place.”
La Canopée is part of a €1 billion project to ‘fix this broken place’; to re-integrate it into the urban environment and make it a more agreeable experience for everyone who uses it.
With a maximum span of 96 metres, La Canopée incorporates 15 translucent slats made of sheet glass, which provide natural ventilation and, at either end, glass awnings offer shelter to the street-level pedestrian walkways. La Canopée also captures solar energy from photovoltaic panels mounted on the north and south buildings as well as rainwater, which will be used to feed the fountains in the neighbouring, still to be constructed, gardens.
Together, the north and south wings of the Canopée accommodate a number of spacious and diversified cultural facilities including a 2,600 square metre conservatory, offering instruction in music, drama and dance as well as concerts, master classes and lectures. There is a 1,050 square metre library, over 1,000 square metres of public workshop and studio space for amateurs and professionals of all hues, a hip-hop centre where young people can express themselves, as well as a swimming pool and a cinema.
And, of course, let’s not forget the more than 6,000 square metres of underground retail shopping.
Sounds under La Canopée des Halles:
Whether or not the Canopée des Halles becomes what the Mayor of Paris has called, ‘the new heart of Paris’, remains to be seen but for me at least it is certainly an improvement on the ‘broken place’ that preceded it.
LED BY STUDENT GROUPS and labour unions, thousands of people gathered in Place de la République in Paris on Saturday afternoon to step up their campaign against the government’s controversial labour reform bill. This was the latest in a series of strikes and protests against the bill and further protests are expected at the end of April.
The architect of the labour reform bill is Myriam El Khomri, the Minister of Labour, and so the bill has adopted her name, becoming the Loi El Khomri. She says the reforms will encourage businesses to hire more workers by deregulating many aspects of France’s notoriously rigid labour laws.
In 2012, François Hollande was elected French President on a pledge to curb unemployment and make ‘youth’ his priority, yet unemployment in France remains stubbornly high at around 10% and unemployment for the under-25s has crept up to an alarming 26%.
Hollande, currently the most unpopular president in France’s recent history, has said that he will not run again for the presidency in 2017 if he cannot cut the country’s high unemployment figures and he hopes the labour reforms will encourage firms to hire more staff.
However, pressure from the street and from parliament has caused the government to water down the proposals so that they apply only to large firms.
Parliament is set to vote on the reforms in late April or early May.
I went Place de la République on Saturday afternoon to mingle with the demonstrators and to record the sounds of protest.
Sounds of the manifestation contre la Loi El Khomri:
There was an almost festive atmosphere to the manifestation tarnished only by some masked youths who clashed briefly with police near Place de la Bastille.
Trouble at large street demonstrations in Paris is unusual and I believe one reason for that is the power of sound. Sound is an integral part of the demonstration; the chanting, with its subtle use of rhythm and repetition, creates a sound architecture that allows the people to speak and to be heard but it also imposes a discipline on the crowd as well as retaining their interest and enthusiasm.
It seems to me that if the demonstrators feel that they are acting together in an orchestrated way and that their voice is being heard then perhaps they are less likely to resort to indiscriminate violence to make their point.
If you want to know more about the labour reform bill, this is the complete texte du projet de loi El Khomri.
ON SUNDAY MORNING, 41,317 runners representing 149 countries set off along the 26 miles and 385 yards (42.195 kilometres) of the 40th edition of the Schneider Electric Marathon de Paris.
The race began in the Champs Elysées and made its way through the city to the Bois de Vincennes in the east before coming back to the Bois de Boulogne in the west and the finish in Avenue Foch.
At the start, the runners take up position in the Champs Elysées in groups based upon their expected finish times.
The Handisport athletes, led by the Handisport fauteuil, the wheelchair competitors, set off some ten minutes ahead of the main field followed by the Handisport debout, the Handisport runners.
Next comes a convoy of the Gendarmerie on motorcycles followed by official cars, the lead timing car and a truck full of press photographers and TV crews. The France Televisions helicopter hovers overhead.
In the convoy’s wake come the elite runners followed by the préférentials, the best of the rest.
The elite runners
In amongst the following pack, the leading women runners appear, including Visiline Jepkesho, in the yellow vest and blue shorts in the picture below, who went on to win the women’s race.
After that, the runners appear in successive waves based upon their expected finish time.
This year, as in previous years, I recorded the sounds of the Paris Marathon from the one-mile post in Rue de Rivoli. I record from here because the runners are still reasonably well bunched up at this point and I’m able to capture the sounds of all the 41,317 runners and their footsteps passing by. This year it took a little over two hours for all the runners to pass me and I recorded the sounds of every one of them.
Paris Marathon 2016:
Although my original recording is over two hours long, I’ve edited it down for this blog to a 20 minute ‘time-lapse’ sound piece, which begins with the wheelchair athletes passing followed by the elite runners and then sounds from each of the following waves of runners.
This year, Cybrian Kotut from Kenya won the men’s race in a personal best time of 2 hours 7 minutes and 13 seconds and for the women, Vaseline Jepkesho, also from Kenya, won in a time of 2 hours 25 minutes and 53 seconds. This meant that Cybrian Kotut crossed the finish line before the last of the runners passed me one mile from the start!
France fielded most runners for this year’s marathon followed by the United Kingdom and the United States. A quarter of the runners were women who weighed in with an average age of 40 and for the men, the average age was 41.
Along with 47 defibrillators and 380 massage therapists, physical therapists, podiatrists and chiropractors; 23 tons of bananas, 16 tons of oranges, 7 tons of apples, 412,500 sugar cubes and 482,000 bottles of Vittel were deployed around the course.
And while most of the runners found it hard going, some managed to negotiate the course in luxury.
The last runner to complete the course finished in a time of 8 hours 11 minutes and 31 seconds.
And spare a thought for the last two runners to leave the Champs Elysées both of whom passed me at the one-mile point comfortingly close to two ambulances.