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France, Paris XIV. - La Défense: Gem of Modernism

Published: 27.8.2014
After a tour in Versailles Palace we moved to the other world with high buildings reaching sky, with materials and design resembling future of humanity known in sci-fi movies.

The unusual contrast took our breath. While whole Paris had so far a historical, somewhere romantic feeling. Its modern district known as La Défense, southwest of the center on the Seine’s left bank, was a really something different to us. Omnipresent modern building that are among world’s most modern urban buildings were monumental. They were of different colors, shapes, materials, but usually of steel. As we learned later, this modern colossus is built on a huge concreted flat land. Beneath is infrasturcute, garages, shops, and the subway. Thanks to several communication lines, the last stop of the line 1 became the busiest subway stop in Paris.
La Défense

La Défense La Défense
La Défence in numbers

These beautiful buildings are administrative centers, and living quarters, cultural and sports facilities, and other polyfunctional buildings. One of the highest buildings in Paris is, since 1985, Tour Total (187 meters). However, its competition is underway – Tour Axa. It should be us much as 240 meters high. Surpassing this height would make it the tallest building in France. There are other 11 buildings more than 150 meters high buildings. 37 buildings above 100 meters and this number is constantly growing. We continue in these amazing numbers. The companies residing in the quarter are also interesting. 14 of 20 largest French companies are situated in La Défense, and 13 of 50 largest world companies. About 1600 employers employ more than 150 000 employees. In the quarter live more than 20 000 people parking on 25 000 parking spaces.
La Défense La Défense

La Défense La Défense - obytná část
Ingenious beginnings

Beginnings of the quarter start in 1958. An official business quarter was founded. It was administered by the Public Company for Construction of La Défense. However, long before it this place had this unique feeling. There used to be a memorial to honor soldiers killed in the Prussian-French war. The memorial gave the quarter its name (La Défence - defense). It was the year 1883. The statue was removed during construction. Today , however, it is once again on the square on its original place. On a small hill there is the so called La Grande Arche, the Large Arch. Its position and orientation is typical for paris. It was built on a direction of a axis lining tree alley from the Grande Arche, through the Arc de Triomphe, Champs-Élysées to Louvre. Such ingenious positioning has its roots already in the era of Louis XV. Already in the 19th century, there used to be a wind mill on a place of today’s Grande Arche.
Défense - La Grande Arche (Velké okno)

Défense - La Grande Arche (Velké okno) Défense - La Grande Arche (Velké okno)
The Grande Arche

The construction was split to three generations of buildings. Initiall,y the buildings were not higher than 100 meters. In the 1970s the second generation emerged. However, the oil crisis in 1973 slowed the construction. Ten years later, the third generation meant real skyscrapers . The afore-mentioned La Grande Arche was opened to the public in 1989 during the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution. The building has a shape of an open cube. It instantly became a symbol of the quarter and also a tourist sight. Even us visited it. It really is impressive. Outside it is made of white carrarar marble. Open interior is completed with interesting panaromatic elevators. Inside this 110-meter building might even stand the Notre Dame. The Grande Arche also functions as an observation platform, museum, gallery, and there is also a typical French restaurant. La Défense
On our visit we had learned from one local that since the construction of Tour Montparnasse (210-meter skyscraper) skyscrapers are allowed to be built only in La Défense. Great plan. Don’t you think? Well, all of you who are just about to visit Paris, make sure to include this beautiful futuristic quarter. It wont disappoint you.

Text: Oskár Mažgút

Photo: Oskár Mažgút, Olga Maňáková



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