La Grande Arche de La Défense
Paris La Défense
Located just beyond the city limits, on the
other side of the Seine from the 17th arrondissement, the Grande Arche de La Défense
anchors the eastern end of the historic axis that stretches from the Louvre down the
Champs-Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe.
One of the Grands Projets (Mitterrands 15
billion franc program to provide a series of modern monuments to symbolize Frances
central role in art, politics, and world economy at the end of the twentieth century), the
modern triumphal arch is actually a 35-story office buildinga monument to
capitalism? The area surrounding La Défense is home to modern office towers housing 14 of
Frances top 20 corporations.
Von Spreckelsens scheme was chosen by
Mitterrand in an international competition for its 'purity and strength'. Von Spreckelsen
backed out of the project before its completion, reportedly disheartened by red tape and
having grown displeased with his own design. He died before its completion.
Tourist guides tout the archs impressive
dimensions and statistics: each side is 110m long; the arch contains 95,000 square meters
of office space. It is clearly the grandest and the most moderne of the Grands
Projets. Amidst the superlatives, the most pleasant aspect of the scheme is its surprising
(and surprisingly subtle) asymmetry; it is rotated six degrees off center of the axis,
breaking the symmetry of its position extending the line of the Champs Elysées. The
rotation was not part of the original design, but was done so that the piles supporting
the structure could avoid the network of tunnels under the site.
Jay Berman 1999
How to visit
Take the Metro (Line 1) or RER 'A' to the
station Grande Arche de La Défense.
Visitors climb the imposing white bank of steps
which forms part of the arch's geometry, the angle and color of the steps reflected in the
other three sides of the square arch. The sides of the arch are offices, but visitors can
take a glass elevator through the sculptural 'clouds' that hang within the arch's interior
space, up to the belvedere. The elevator is open between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m.
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