Introduction and general views, La Défense

La Défense is primarily a business district with several million square metres of office space, serving more than 2500 companies, which, because of its concentration of skyscrapers, has been dubbed the "Manhattan on the Seine." It developed as a result of the scarcity of space in downtown Paris and as part of a long-time dream to extend the historical axis (by Le Nôtre) of Paris. The original plan stipulated that pedestrians would occupy the raised esplanade (following the historical axis) whereas vehicular traffic would have more complicated routes underneath. By the 1970s extensive building was underway, principally skyscrapers since they occupy less space at ground level, although many of the early "tours" (tower in French) were uninspired international style flat-roofed box forms. More recently, forms which maximize interior light or more interesting elliptical or rounded forms have been designed.

Views of the wide esplanade to the east--back toward Paris with a tiny view of the Arc de Triomphe (left picture, center)

Left: One of the typical early skyscrapers is Tour Gan, designed by Max Abramovitz and Wallace K. Harrison, 1974. This 48 story building, with black curtain wall, created a scandal because its height made it visible from downtown Paris. Height restrictions, however, were never successfully imposed at La Défense.

Center: Grande Arche de la Défense and the mirrored subway entrance


Left: skyscrapers--Tours Voltaire by Henri La Fonta, 1988; center: Tour Séquoia by Michel Andrault and Pierre Parat, 1990


Right: far left, EDF Tower (aka Tour Hines or Tour PB6) by Pei, Cobb, Freed & Partners, 2001; center with dark glass windows--the Franklin Tower by Delb Chesneau & Verola, 1972; right edge, Calder's Grand Stabile Rouge

Center: the matching skyscrapers with sloped truncated tops--the Tours Société Générale by Michel Andrault and Pierre Parat, 1995; the center building with punched out windows--Pacific Tower by Kisho Kurokawi, 1988-92


Views north from esplanade; Center: Tour Total Fina ELF by Roger Saubot and François Julien, 1985


Other futuristic architecture with an appropriately named transportation stop

The building called Elysées Défense (left) was designed by Roger Saubot and François Julien, 1982.

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© 2007 Mary Ann Sullivan. I have photographed (on site), scanned, and manipulated all the images on these pages. Please feel free to use them for personal or educational purposes. They are not available for commercial purposes.