When I was an exchange student in Denmark during high school, I took a trip around Europe for a month. One stop, of course, was Paris. But it was towards the end of my 363 days abroad and I was low on funds. So I scoffed at the ticket price to go up the elevator in La Grande Arche and instead admired it from below and afar.
But La Defense is more than just the Grande Arche. It is the high-rise office district located several kilometers west of center city Paris. It is home to the tallest buildings in Paris and is a striking part of the skyline. The region was once home to warehouses and factories and was considered the least attractive part of Paris. Redevelopment of this area began in the first half of the 20th century in order to create a business district for the city. This resulted in the extension of the Axe Historique and Voie Triumphale and provided a place for expansion of urban public space.
The district is named for a monument, La Defense de Paris, which is a memorial to the soldiers who fought in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870-71 (www.wikipedia.com). This older monument has since been relocated to another site near its original location (www.paris-pass.com). La Defense has been very controversial. The architectural style of this area is in stark contrast to that of the rest of Paris. La Defense is modern, consisting of tall buildings constructed of concrete, glass and metal. This is the only region in the Paris vicinity to have such tall buildings. Critics have described La Defense as “a forest of buildings”. The buildings are all lined up in 2 rows, one on either side of the street (www.wikipedia.com).
So as a grown-up, I went back, in July, 2009, and spent a rain-filled afternoon wandering around La Defense with my husband. In fact, I think it was the first thing we did after arriving and checking in to the hotel. My husband is a trooper for tolerating and even showing enthusiasm for my crazy landscape architecture-related antics. I took hundreds of photos in just a few hours, so picking which to post was difficult. Here are just a few.
my photo from the museum, www.grandearche.comHere are the specs and more history in a nut shell, please skip if you feel the need. If you want more on the history, contact me and I would be happy to share.
Construction of La Grande Arche de La Defense began in 1982 and was completed in 1989. Inauguration took place in July, 1989. La Grande Arche, also know as Le Grande Arche de la Fraternite and La Toit de la Grande Arche, is situated on axis with many of Paris’ famous skyline sights, 4 km west of center city in La Defense district (www.wikipedia.com). La Grande Arche was designed by Danish architect Johan Otto Von Spreckelsen of Denmark. Spreckelsen died during construction and the monument was completed by French architect Paul Andreu (www.denmark.dk).
- 100 square meter footprint
- 110 meters high
- 108 meter width
- 112 meter depth
- Prestressed concrete frame
- White/gray marble cladding with glass windows on exterior and interior facing walls
- Fabric canopy under archExterior tube elevators