Les Halles: pedestrian circulation and wayfinding

For pedestrian walkways and wayfinding, we focussed mainly on the flow of people: where are they going, how do they orient themselves, and what challenges do they face while navigating through the space of Les Halles? The structure of Les Halles is inherently conducive to pedestrian traffic: the wide walkways underneath the canopy allow many different kinds of travellers to use the space without hindering one another: tourists have enough space to stop by the railings and admire the roof, locals or residents can meander along the storefronts and sit in seating spaces provided by cafes, all while still leaving a path for commuters to pass through quickly and efficiently.
However, the presence of construction, maintenance, and other blockages hinders the flow of pedestrians, especially between the floors.  Thus the focus for our project was to analyze how efficiently space was being used for entering and exiting the mall under the canopy.  We wanted to alleviate the blockages caused by inefficient organization of the space, and focus on two major needs in the area: public seating spaces, and their intersection with streamlining the flow of pedestrian traffic.


At first, our methodology was simply immersive and we navigated Les Halles as we imagined most visitors would. We split into two groups of two and walked around both the top level of Les Halles – under the canopy as well as around the periphery – and inside the main shopping center. We found the sidewalk to be incredibly spacious and capable of easily accommodating large crowds. Having identified that the main flow of pedestrian traffic was between the 0 and -1 floors, we decided to measure the flow of individuals using the ground floor escalators and stairs to determine whether the space dedicated to cross-floor traffic was being used efficiently. For practicality we measured only the number of pedestrians who were using the north-side escalators or stairs (i.e. one set of escalators and half of the main stairs). We counted in five-minute intervals the number of people travelling up or down the stairs, and up or down the escalators, also taking note of their gender and their general age category (child, adult, elderly).

Les Halles Flow Graph

By counting the flow of pedestrians on the stairs and escalators, we hoped to discover whether the placement of the stairs and escalators was optimized, and whether the stairs could be repurposed as sitting areas, since our initial observations revealed many using the stairs as a resting place. After analyzing our pedestrian flow data on the escalators and the stairs, we found that, on average, there were twice as many people using the pathways to go up and out of the shopping center when compared to the number going down into the shopping area. The lack of dedicated seating areas had a huge impact on pedestrian circulation because the large number of people sitting on the stairs interfered with what should have been a walking area. The staircase area’s lack of organized pathways meant that pedestrians who chose to use the stairs were forced to take haphazard paths and dodge the crowds sitting there.

Old Les Halles

Based on our data and analysis, we come up with the idea of a redesign and a reorganization of the stair space. First of all, we need to separate the space between pedestrians and people who sit and rest. We propose a short-cut walkway in front of the escalators from the -3 floor to -1 floor with painted direction so that it can bear part of flows. Meanwhile, since the stairs closest to the side escalators are less likely to be used as walking ways, we’d like to change them into colorful seating area. The overall idea is to avoid possible conflict between pedestrian traffic and seating spaces, and to make better use of the open public space.

Les Halles Proposed Changes-01

New Les Halles

In order to put our idea into reality, we propose three simple and easily implementable changes: adding studs in designated pathways to improve traction (#1), highlighting designated walkways by painting the stairs (#2), and increasing the grade of the designated walkways (#3).  These strategies aim to promote the usage of specific areas as walkways (see illustrations).  The location of these stairs will encourage travellers coming up from the -3 floor to use them, as they are in close proximity to the exit of the escalators, and the addition of a railing would further designate the pathways as stairwells.


By Lin Sun, Juliana Castrillon, Alan Wong, Léon Faure

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