Sunday, 6 November 2011

19th Century Paris: The Marché Carreau du Temple

Sometimes, when walking through the city, you see something and know that you are witnessing a scene that has not been seen by generations before and will not be seen by those that come after. Such is the case currently at the site of the Marché Carreau du Temple in the 3rd arrondissement.

Alongside autumn leaveless trees, the market building has been stripped to its elegant bones. This is the original cast-iron skeleton that appeared first on this site in 1863, and reappeared during renovations for the Foire de Paris in 1904. Since that date, the structure had always been dressed, clothed in glass and brick, until work began again this year to transform the site into a centre for culture and sport.

What previously seemed functional and heavy now looks featherlight, with its frame as intricate as the threads in a spider's web. It would be difficult to imagine its purpose, and even more difficult to picture it filled with thousands of shoppers. However, from the beginning, it was a market that attracted large crowds, particularly those looking for cheap clothes.

Between the 1950s and 1970s, the market was home to over 1000 traders. By the 1980s that figure had dropped to around 360, and as a new century dawned, the total dropped further still. When it was finally closed to the public, the immense hall was only welcoming around 10 stalls.

However, although its usefulness as a place of commerce had long been in terminal decline, it did manage to survive an attack on its very existence. In 1976, the local authorities had proposed to pull down the building and construct a parking lot. Local residents fought the proposition, which was eventually abandoned, and the building was declared a protected historic monument in 1982.

Which explains why the skeleton is still standing today, ready for its new - more useful - body. This cast-iron frame, which had grown used to silence, will once again see large crowds under its carcass from 2013, a historic building reborn.

History though, hides history. This structure is a survivor, but beneath it, lies centuries of previous uses of this land. Churches, cemeteries and the walls of the Knights Templar's properties have previously stood here, all of which are slowly being uncovered by archeologists, at the same time as the market is recycled for new uses.

3 comments:

Owen said...

Must have been quite a job to strip it down to its bare bones... and it must have heaved a sigh of relief to have all that weight off its back?

Philippa said...

What a beautiful structure! We saw it when it was all closed up and it's nice to know that it will be preserved.

FotoMarg said...

It would be wonderful if the beautiful bones could remain visible in the buildings new incarnation.

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