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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
By Scheherazade Daneshkhu

Published: May 30 2008 19:04 | Last updated: May 30 2008 19:04

London and Paris are a perverse pair of rivals. Just as Londoners have elected a new mayor, Boris Johnson, who is more sceptical than his predecessor about the contemporary rash of tall buildings, Paris is embracing skyscrapers in an effort to make up ground lost to other capitals.

Parisians revere their city but many complain that it has become a heritage museum, comparing its grace unfavourably with the lively buzz of cities such as London, Berlin, Barcelona or New York.

Now a 71-storey tower is to be the centrepiece of a plan to revitalise La Défense, the grim, 50-year-old clutch of buildings that juts haphazardly out of Paris's western skyline, thus bringing the business district closer to the bosom of the historic city.

Jean Nouvel, the French architect, won a competition this week to spearhead the area's regeneration, beating designs by Britain's (Lord) Norman Foster and Daniel Libeskind, the US-based architect. For Mr Nouvel, who rose to international prominence 20 years ago with his Institut du Monde Arabe by the Seine, the success comes only weeks after he won the Pritzker Prize, the architectural equivalent of a Nobel.

At first sight, adding an even bigger skyscraper to the towering silos in Europe's largest business district seems an odd way of attempting to humanise an area often criticised as cold and faceless.

Set in parkland, Mr Nouvel's tower is divided into four cubes piled on top of each other, comprising shops, restaurants, offices, a hotel and apartments. The sections will be built around huge, Italian-style terraces. There will be vast coloured panels visible for miles around, courtyard gardens and public spaces. The building will be energy-efficient. We can only wait to see how successful it will be as a hub for local life.

Standing a respectful 23m lower than the Eiffel Tower, it will be the city's second tallest building at 301m.

The significance placed on the project was made clear by Patrick Devedjian, head of Epad, the public body in charge of renovating La Défense. "The Signal Tower is the most important architectural event since the Eiffel Tower," he said, announcing the winner. It would be "the defining building in the Greater Paris that is currently taking shape".

That development plan was launched by Mr Devedjian's predecessor as president of the Hauts-de-Seine region, fellow UMP politician Nicolas Sarkozy, now France's president. It envisages demolishing 17 ageing buildings in La Défense by 2013 and replacing them with shops, parks, cycle lanes and a number of skyscrapers, of which the Signal Tower is the flagship.

The idea of a greater Paris - to dissolve the boundary between its 20 manicured arrondissements and the suburbs - seems to have been born out of Mr Sarkozy's dramatic stint as interior minister. As the banlieus burnt, Mr Sarkozy cracked down hard on the rioters in those rundown areas outside Paris and other cities. But after that experience, he championed the idea that redevelopment had to include the whole greater city area, with strengthened links between the centre and its suburbs.

In redeveloping La Défense, Mr Sarkozy has his eye on attracting business and a political urge to recoup some of the kudos enjoyed by the newly re-elected Socialist mayor, Bertrand Delanoë, much praised for encouraging cycling, who has plans to redevelop several louche inner city areas. But Mr Sarkozy also read the mood of the capital's citizens and the need to inject dynamism and excitement, hence his promise of a "world-class city".

For the past 30 years, Paris's harmony has been preserved by strict planning laws restricting high-rise buildings, partly as a response to the ungainly black Montparnasse tower that sticks out in the city centre.

Acknowledging that the loathed Montparnasse did "not make our job easier", Mr Sarkozy last year encouraged "bold thinking" among architects: "The question for us is not to think about the next six months but the next century."

In outlining an architectural vision, Mr Sarkozy has displayed an urge to forge the well-trodden path upon which so many French leaders have embarked. From Napoléon III's redevelopment of Paris with Baron Haussmann to former president François Mitterrand's grands travaux, or "great works", such as the pyramid at the Louvre museum and the Grande Arche at La Défense, which rejuvenated Paris in the 1980s, France's leaders have left their mark.

Mr Sarkozy's favoured medium, judging by the La Défense scheme, appears to be the skyscraper, although he also said: "We can't have a policy of uniform skyscrapers."

It is an appropriate choice for France's bling bling president though he has also fallen in line with the global craze for skyscrapers - a pragmatic choice given the price of and shortage of land in most big cities. But there is nothing new about the desire to build soaring towers, which have always been symbols of economic progress and power - from Yemen's mudbrick skyscrapers to San Gimignano's towers, to New York's Manhattan and now Burj Dubai, currently the world's tallest building.

"Nicolas Sarkozy, grand architecte," sneered Le Figaro this week. Ouest France, a provincial newspaper, wrote: 'With the Signal Tower, France will catch up a bit with the world's other capital cities." Paris needs more buzz but are skyscrapers the best way? The history is not encouraging.

The writer is FT Paris correspondent


17,558 Posts
Paris without buzz :nuts: , if Paris don't have buzz I don't know wich cities has buzz.
Maybe that the Louvre district don't have buzz but yho go in the Louvre district exepted tourists ?

FT should go in outside the boring 7th and 16th arrondissements. They will discover a busy, lively, vibrant and multicultural city.

See here

8,544 Posts
bah nothing to loose our time over. Under the pretext of criticism and balanced approach, these people actually only celebrate themselves and the groups they are part of. Which means London in this case.

The Jedi Will Rise Again
13,781 Posts
What CW lacks in comparison to LD is the number of towers and architectural styles that would reveal an ageing -yet mature- architectural ensamble. On the other hand though, CW appears to be -according to certain sources- more vibrant that its continental counterpart, merely on the grounds of shops, new restaurants, etc, while in this sense, according to the same -Brit- sources, after a certain hour of the day when the yuppies left for their suburbioan homes, LD becomes a cold place much resembling a city struck by a calamity that killed all life but left all the buildings in tact.

In my view, you can't have it all in one package. A mature, extended and diverse CBD like LD which incorporates three generations of towers and is now going for the fourth, inevitably will have its -not-so-perfect- spots with aging buildings and public spaces in need of reconstruction.

On the other hand, not ALL of LD can have the lustre and sharp image the younger CW possesses. BTW CW's inception took place in the early 1980 by Margaret Thatcher whilst the first towers of LD appeared in the mid-1960s, although the planning started probably during the mid-50s. So, CW being the 1/3 of LD and some 20+ years younger may have some virtues expect one: Architectural novelty. I really don't understand why they are building all the progressive designs in the City, thus increasing the controversy and the arguments between the traditionalists and the modernists and they don't venture into building the boxes in the City and all the "unconventional" towers in CW.

Overall though, it's a sad thing for London that "Red" Ken left. A large part of London's metropolitan character is owed to those towers that have been built during the last 30 years (from Nat West and after). CW especially, pose new standards and even gave Paris a bit of a shock forcing the French to announce the fabulous 400m "Tour sans fins" that was never built.

Now, the two most important cities of Western Europe must decide whether they will continue their quest for new urban heights and it seems that whoever will pioneer the race towards the 300m mark in terms of new towers will have made a significant step towards being crowned as the new king of urban Western Europe. Not for long of course, given the frantic competition from a multitude of European cities that compete in terms of vertical expansion, but to the connaisseurs, a first is always a first :).

17,997 Posts
Not for long of course, given the frantic competition from a multitude of European cities that compete in terms of vertical expansion
Multitude? There aren't that many competitors in Europe. And no European city is going to have a cluster with 22 towers above 150 meters as in La Défense in 2015.

La Défense cluster in 2015, according to what has been announced so far:

1- Generali Tower (318m)
2- Hermitage Tower 1 (309m)
3- Signal Tower (301m)
4- Phare Tower (300m)
5- Hermitage Tower 2 (264m)
6- New Gan Tower (236m roof/275m mast)
7- Air² Tower (235m)
8- New Axa Tower (225m roof/240m mast)
9- Majunga Tower (195m)
10- T1 Tower (188m)
11- Total Tower (187m)
12- Areva Tower (184m)
13- Granite Tower (183m)
14- D2 Tower (180m)
15- Alicante Tower (SG) (167m)
16- Chassagne Tower (SG) (167m)
17- Carpe Diem Tower (166m)
18- EDF Tower (165m)
19- Cœur Défense Tower (161m)
20- Adria (Technip) Tower (155m)
21- Égée (Ernst&Young) Tower (155m)
22- Ariane Tower (152m)

The Jedi Will Rise Again
13,781 Posts
Which towers up to #10 have they been topped out in LD? LD now does not lack density as much as it lacks strategically positioned height. In any case, I wouldn't characterize a cluster that looks like this as "dated":

Also, the fact that London and Paris have character in their high rise clusters does not make them the only contenders in the quest for Europe's vertical expansion. There are numerous cities that have equal or better high rises or that are expected to obtain them in the near future.

486 Posts
uh oh so that Nouvel tower won the Signal competition? Well I love Nouvel but the original renderings of that looked awful.

Unfortunately it appears LD will be dominated by some ugly towers in the future... phare, signal, generali (not too bad, but..), etc...
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