Dated Paris shopping hall gets multi-million makeover

Thu Mar 24, 2011 8:02pm EDT
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By Vicky Buffery

PARIS (Reuters Life!) - Paris is building a colossal shell-like glass and steel canopy over its Les Halles shopping center in an 800 million euro revamp of what has become an eyesore of dated architecture at the heart of the capital.

The vast project -- costing more than London's 2012 Olympic stadium or France's 2.5 km (1.5 mile) Millau viaduct which is the world's tallest bridge -- should transform the decades-old transport hub and underground mall into a striking visual landmark, even if Parisians are divided over the aesthetics.

The city's latest grand architectural project follows the building of a giant glass pyramid as a new entrance to the Louvre museum and a book-shaped national library by the Seine.

The architects plan to put together the 17,000 sq meter canopy offsite and erect it in one piece.

"We'll bring it in almost pre-fabricated, and everything has been designed to rest on the existing underground structure without adding any more pillars so as not to disrupt activities," Patrick Berger, one of the designers, told Reuters.

The renovation, set for completion in 2016, will include a redesign of the site's 10-acre garden and a revamp of the underground station. One of Europe's busiest, it connects five metro lines and three suburban train lines including the one that brings in visitors from Roissy airport.

But it is the undulating canopy with its pillarless greenish-yellow louvered roof that will take up the bulk of the cost and which is attracting the most criticism.

"It's going to be an absolute catastrophe. Architecturally it's rubbish and financially it's a scandal. The cost is absolutely astronomical," said Elisabeth Bourguinat of local association Accomplir which is fighting to halt the plans.   Continued...