The city of Paris is known for many cultural treasures, including a long history of architectural marvels. To maintain the city’s celebrated beauty, however, skyscrapers have largely been forbidden. Other than the Eiffel Tower, constructed in 1889, and La Tour Montparnasse, an office building erected in 1973, there are no structures taller than 121 ft that lie within the city limits. Urban planners selected this height, in part, to preserve views of other famous monuments including the Arc de Triomphe and Notre Dame. After 15 years of debate and delays, however, in December developers broke ground for a new futuristic highrise, resembling a foil-wrapped wedge of Toblerone. La Tour Triangle, at 42 stories high, is short by skyscraper standards, but a colossal monster to many Parisians.
Debates and Delays
Former Paris Mayor, Bertrand Delanoë, initially proposed the shimmering office tower back in 2008. At the time, Anne Hidalgo, the current mayor of Paris was Delanoë’s first deputy overseeing urban planning and architecture. In July of 2013, after myriad planning and legal issues had been resolved, a site was cleared in the southwest corner of the city, just inside the Périphérique, the ring road that encircles Paris.
Many Paris residents, however, were not happy with the prospects of a pyramidal superstructure on the horizon. Environmental organizations joined forces with politically conservative groups to oppose the tower’s construction. And, in November 2014, the City Council of Paris rejected the project. So began, a battle of tug-of-war with objections placing the project on hold followed by resolutions aimed at moving the project skyward.
Over the years, there have been allegations of favoritism, appeals to postpone, financial snags, and concerns that the triangular skyscraper is ecologically irresponsible. Philippe Goujon, the conservative mayor of the 15th arrondissement has been one of the project’s loudest opponents, arguing that in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, an office tower is no longer needed since so many people now work from home.
After more than a decade of snags and scuffles, construction is finally underway, backed by many powerful stakeholders. The prize-winning Swiss architects, Herzog & de Meuron first designed the tower in 2006. Their innovative geometric facades dot the globe and range from the 2008 Beijing Olympic Stadium to Prada’s Tokyo flagship store. Belgian contracting company, BESIX, also known for building the Burj Khalifa in Dubai (the tallest building in the world), is overseeing construction. Global developer Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield in partnership with the French insurance multinational AXA, is providing financial backing for the full €670 million price tag. URW’s asset portfolio includes many of the world’s most extravagant retail spaces.
Throughout the battle, these backers have been staunch defenders of the project. According to Herzog & de Meuron, the triangular shape is intended to maximize views for those inside the building while reducing the shadow cast on the surrounding area. URW assures the public that the building incorporates “the highest environmental construction standards” as well as “best in class conventional energy consumption and a carbon emissions trajectory in line with the Paris climate agreement”.
Onward and Upward
When initially approved, La Tour Triangle was expected to be completed well before Paris’ hosting of the Olympic Games in 2024. The expected finish date is now set for some time in 2026. When finished, the building will house a 4-star hotel, a conference center, office space, a daycare center, a cultural center, a medical clinic, shops, and restaurants. The project also includes the creation of an 8000 m2 public garden, which provides a pleasant greenbelt between La Tour Triangle and its immediate neighbor, Le Parc des Expositions de la Porte de Versailles. The latter will serve as one of the many venues in and around Paris to host Olympic events.
The developers have shown that they can convert office space to apartments if need be. However, such a transformation may be a ways off. Parisian office space is in high demand and many developers have been jockeying to fulfill this need. Another massive construction project, which proposed building the two tallest towers in Europe just outside of Paris, has been jumping through similar hoops since 2006. However, the tours jumelles were definitively canceled last month.
While I’m not informed enough to make a judgment about the project’s worthiness or its ethicality, I have to say that I’m a fan of the design. I love Paris and I don’t want to see it peppered with new highrises, but I think that La Tour Triangle is likely to join the long list of Paris’ many beloved architectural landmarks. What do you think?
- La Tour Triangle, Homepage
- France Inter, Tour Triangle à Paris : les travaux sont lancés
- Paris Futur, La Tour Triangle
- Challenges, Parc des expositions: “Paris a besoin de bureaux neufs”
- de zeen, Herzog & de Meuron’s Tour Triangle set to begin construction in Paris
- The Architect’s Newspaper, Herzog & de Meuron’s Tour Triangle is moving forward, dividing Parisians
- Architectural Digest, 10 Innovative Buildings by Herzog & de Meuron
- Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, Asset Portfolio
- BESIX, Burj Khalifa
- actuHauts-de-Seine, Le projet des deux plus hautes tours d’Europe à La Défense définitivement abandonné