Rebirth of Carreau du Temple: A great example of 19th-century architecture
This April one of Paris’ infamous covered markets will reopen its doors to the public after 11 years of painstaking restoration.
The Carreau du Temple had considerable importance for the Paris working classes for a century, and its stalls, where silk items, carpets, household fabrics and fashion accessories could all be bought, inspired writers who often took the Carreau as the setting for their novels, among them Eugène Sue in Les Mystères de Paris or Paul Féval in Le fils du diable.
The listed building with its charismatic architecture is an important part of Paris’ Marais district. Located close to Duperré’s École supérieure des arts appliqués and the historic Square du Temple laid out by Jean-Charles Alphand, the urban planner of Baron Haussmann, the building is instantly noticeable.
The Carreau du Temple is a surviving example of great 19th-century metal-frame architecture. The history of the building dates back to the 12th-century, a time when the Knights Templar lived in an enclosure to the north of Paris. During the time of the knights of the Order of the Temple of Jerusalem the enclosure enjoyed legal privileges that exempted it from paying tax and gave it the right to offer asylum. In this time the building flourished. During the Revolution the building was seized and demolished. In 1781, the Rotunda was built and consisted of galleries, shops and apartments. It wasn’t until 1809, when a new set of wooden halls were built by the architect Jacques Molinos on land ceded by the state to the city of Paris, these forming four quadrilaterals that were called the Halle au vieux linge, or ‘Old Clothes Hall.’ It was this ensemble of buildings that, together with the Rotunda, formed the first Temple market.
The market’s last achievement was to host the first Paris Fair in 1904, and a year later four of the six pavilions of the Paris market were knocked down. It will now host sporting and cultural events. Saint Laurent has already booked the space for its fashion show.
It was threatened with demolition in 1976 to make way for a parking area, a petition signed by five thousand residents of the district saved the Carreau from the bulldozers.
In 2001, the mayor of Paris set out his plan to restore the building. Local residents decided that the Carreau’s new function should be to house cultural and sporting facilities. This mammoth task was assigned to studioMilou architecture, a firm behind the restoration of the Burial Mounds Museum in Bougon, built in the oldest necropolis in Europe, the Cherbourg Cité de la Mer, housed in the city’s former Gare maritime building, a jewel of art déco architecture, and the National Automobile Museum in Mulhouse, located within a 19th-century former wool-spinning factory that is listed building in France.
The new design minimises the visual impact of the new architectural work on the façades of the buildings in order to draw attention to their metal structure and maximise the natural light.
As a result, it places the light at the service of the space, letting the metal structures of the buildings function as giant ‘umbrellas’ set over an area of public space. The materials and colour palette used have been selected to complement the architecture of the surrounding city and the sky: steel for the basement and new woodwork, green-grey paint for the existing steel structures, zinc for the roof structure, and interior facing in oak and steel.
Thomas Rouyrre, head of the project, said: “We employed principles of classical design, attaching great importance to the composition, proportion and to a limited choice of materials and colours that would work well together. This approach began by continuing the use of traditional materials, wood, plaster applied by craftsmen trained to work with the demands of historical monuments. No less than four carpenters have worked in this way for the realisation of the wood and stainless steel cladding.”
Following the demolition of the much-missed Baltard pavilions of Les Halles in the 1970s, the refurbishment of the Carreau du Temple was impatiently looked forward. Why is its conservation and adaptive reuse so important?
Jean François Milou: The Carreau du Temple is all that remains of the marché du
Temple, which was demolished at the beginning of the twentieth century, and it is a surviving example of the kind of large-scale market structures that were built at the end of the nineteenth century in Paris, among them Les Halles. You are right to refer to Les Halles, since the Carreau du Temple project is a technical demonstration that the Baltard Halles could easily have been retained intact, with the new Forum des Halles being built beneath them.
In what ways has the project been challenging?
JFM: For the reasons referred to above, work on the Carreau du Temple could not seek to reconstruct the scale of the nineteenth-century market halls.
Instead, the aim was to idealise, or to amplify in a poetic manner, the fine structure of the Carreau du Temple rather than to seek some kind of archaeological authenticity.
The first step in the architectural work consisted of emphasizing the refinement of the building’s structure, reducing the apparent weightiness of the existing structure. The second step was to open up the building wherever possible, drawing the light and the gaze of passers-by in through the filigree texture of the restored structure both during the day and at night. However, it will be seen that behind this statement and the aim of simplicity there lies the reality of a complex and delicate project, since the intention of the work as a whole was to refine, simplify, and render invisible to the visitor the thousands of interventions made by the architect.
The Carreau du Temple opens on April 25, 4, rue Spuller 75003, Paris, France
Images courtesy of Fernando Javier Urquijo / studioMilou architecture
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