Châtelet-Les Halles is one of the busiest stations of Paris metro, the major commuter train hub. Five lines of Paris Metro have station here and also Châtelet is connected to the RER station Châtelet – Les Halles.
So this network brings together three of the five RER lines and five Métro lines, and is the central node of the network of transit of the Ile-de-France metropolitan area. Every day 750,000 travelers pass through Châtelet–Les Halles, including 493,000 just for the RER. At peak hours, the station can see 120 trains in just one hour.
For a long time the station has been accessible only through the Forum des Halles shopping centre. In 2011 the redesign of Les Halles, a major redevelopment of the transit station and its area started.
Les Halles was the traditional central market of Paris since XII century. It was known as the "Belly of Paris". In 1970-es unable to compete in the new market economy the old market was replaced with a RER station. Later more renovations took place with construction of The Forum des Halles, a partially underground multiple story commercial and shopping center, opened at the east end of the site in 1979. A public garden covering four hectares opened in 1986.
The so-called “Old Forum” was rebuild in New Forum in 1985. Now it will be renewed and rebuild again. Over thirty years since it opened, Les Halles is saturated and out of date. It can no longer cope with the numbers of people passing through it. The RER station and its approaches are congested, and require major redevelopment to make them bigger, with modern facilities and improved safety.
The gardens are cramped and lack unity. They offer zero articulation with the main entrances to the RER station.
With 3 RER lines, 5 metro lines, 14 bus routes and 750,000 passengers from Île-de-france and beyond passing through it every day, the Châtelet-Les Halles transport interchange is Europe’s busiest underground rail station.
The shopping centre benefits from its proximity to the RER station and metro. Up to 150,000 people visit the centre every day.
At present, it’s the biggest shopping centre in the French capital. The huge pedestrian precinct - one of the biggest in Europe - gives unity to a quarter which shopping streets throng with 300,000 people every day.
Every day a multitude of people - Parisians, commuters from the suburbs and visitors to the French capital - pass through Les Halles.
With its underground and surface elements, station, gardens, shops and public facilities, the site is amorphous without obvious unity. It’s difficult to find one’s way around.
Pedestrian access routes above and below street level are confusing and tortuous.
The site is extremely busy, and its structures have aged. New regulations on safety in public establishments and underground buildings have rendered it obsolete.
The redevelopment of Les Halles goes well beyond architecture to take in aspects of urban planning. the challenge is how to make a site which serves Paris region worthy of Paris as a capital.
Bringing the light of day to the underground infrastructure while giving more cohesion and breathing space to the neighbourhood it occupies.
Another challenge facing the project is to make the underground part of the development more permeable, eliminating the frontiers which separate it from street level.
Entrances and interiors will be more spacious and better suited to the volume of people that use them.
Pedestrian routes will be less congested and enable hassle-free access to the surrounding neighbourhood. Previously closed in on itself and difficult to penetrate, the underground part of Les Halles will now be open to the exterior, with improved visibility and visual unity.
The street level part of the development will be demolished and rebuilt to confer new continuity between above and below. The Canopy imposes new visual coherence and unity on the street level structures, while also providing a roof and a principal point of ingress.
The RER station will be clearly visible right from the street-level entrance points.
All areas dedicate special attention to illumination, with the emphasis on the diffusion of natural light.
The new gardens will be more spacious, more accessible, and greener - making them a more pleasant place to be.
Construction will be over by 2016. The public is kept informed of the progress of the construction project via internet (www.parisleshalles.fr), regular publications (newsflashes, the magazine Demain les Halles, etc.), events and an information point which is open 7 days a week from midday to 8 pm.
Located near fontaine des Innocents, this information point features an exhibition on the Les Halles project and construction site. Public information meetings are regularly organized for local residents, commuters and neighbourhood traders to keep them informed of how work is progressing.