Pilgrimage: Les Halles
Text: Jo-Eike Vormittag for PLD magazine
Photos: Miguel Chevalier
The location was long referred to as the “Belly of Paris”, thanks to a novel of the same name by Émile Zola. For many years Les Halles, in the centre of Paris, served as a marketplace and was known as a colourful, noisy, busy place where Parisians bought their food. Around 1960 the marketplace was relocated to create more space in the city centre. The site now accommodates Paris’s “new” urban railway hub, Châtelet-Les-Halles, the construction of which was completed in 1977. Overground, and indeed partially underground, has been developed to encompass a multi-storey shopping centre: now busier, noisier and more colourful than ever.
In this vibrant melting pot of shops, restaurants, cultural venues and cinemas, plus the millions of visitors that find their way here in the course of a year, artist Miguel Chevalier has designed and realised an almost 30 metre long pixel wall. Using 7000 LEDs, unique acrylic glass and special computer software he has created a mix of light and colour with a quality and effect of its own that fits in perfectly with the location. And when a light art installation and the place it is realised in merge into one with such ease, this can only be interpreted as a successfully developed concept and a job well done. An effect that can indeed develop between two elements when in spite of everything they have in common – in this case dynamic quality, interaction, change, movement, colour and diversity – there are points where they can comfortably differ. Then we are talking about compromises.
For the crowds milling around the by – who are themselves a colourful melting pot of shoppers, railway passengers and tourists – the colourful, slowly changing effects generated across the pixel wall are like looking into a calming kaleidoscope of images. The technology and materials applied respond to the dynamic quality of the glass architecture that surrounds them; the multitude of colours reflect the variety of visitors, shops and outlets using the space, and the innovative digital art and virtual reality scenarios provide a break from the stress of shopping or finding one’s way in or out of the railway station area. In a place that comes alive because of the people using it, “Pixel Wave Light” represents this scheme of things in technological terms, simultaneously creating a lively, visual world of its own.
Products applied: 7000 LEDs, Dacryl (specially developed acrylic glass, made in France), dedicated software