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
Just like folks complaint about La Défense and now its a beehive we go for the shopping eating and business meeting of me. I am sure the Triangle will be a big success. Heck they did not even wanted the Eiffel tower lol!!!
Haha. Very true. Most people resist change but the French seem to be particularly vocal about such things. 🙂
In the end, I feel like such projects should have to overcome tremendous scrutiny before they’re undertaken. Hopefully, this one has proven itself worthy.
Oh the French like to yelled at anything but then go away lol!!! Its a national Past time like strikes!!
Thanks for weighing in!
You are welcome
Great. Now Tom Cruise will want to climb THAT…
Lol. I hadn’t thought of that angle. Yet, it seems like every travelogue about Paris includes a chapter about the iconic movies that have been filmed there. If ever a building lent itself to harrowing scenes of swinging rappel lines, this is it.
I hear he’s planning to travel to Mars, so he can climb Olympus Mons…
What a wimp.
Paris has a dedicated skyscraper district already (La Défense). By all means, this building should be built there. La Défense is a good compromise, allowing companies the needed office space while not destroying the central city’s historic views. What’s more, land is cheaper there than in the city.
There’s just one “problem” with La Défense: it’s outside of the city limits, so Anne Hidalgo can’t claim credit for anything built out there. So instead, she’s cramming this building just inside the Périphérique, so she can make this part of her personal legacy. So what if it will cost a lot more to build it there than in the suburbs?
And so what if the residents of the neighborhood are opposed? Bah, the 15th arrondissement never votes for her anyway!
But these kinds of cynical decisions also help to explain why Hidalgo is polling at 2% for the presidency.
Great comment James. I hadn’t thought about Hidalgo wanting the project within the city limits so that it could add to her legacy.
One downside of concentrating office space at La Défense is that it’s not centrally located. So it’s harder to get to for commuters coming from the south and east metro areas.
I can see the points of both sides here. The capital city of a modern country can’t be frozen in time like a museum piece. I seem to recall reading that people originally objected to the Eiffel Tower because it was too large and jarringly modern-looking (by the standards of the time). London has lots of tall buildings now and doesn’t seem to have lost its character. La Tour Triangle is at least an interesting design and not a blocky generic skyscraper. In a century or two it might be seen as an iconic Parisian structure as the Eiffel Tower is.
On the other hand, the area inside the Périphérique appears to be a pretty small part of the whole metro area. If office space is needed, it would surely not be too burdensome to build it just beyond, especially if there is already an area where skyscrapers are the norm, as James Mercier says. And the trend toward working from home instead of in offices is inexorable. Over the next decade a lot of the new building may end up being converted to apartments anyway (though I shudder to contemplate how expensive they would be).
I wonder if people in Giza in 2800 BC worried that the Great Pyramid was excessively large and would spoil the character of their city.
I don’t know what happened to your username, Infidel. I hit some magic combination of keys and your comment disappeared as well as my reply. When I restored, WP changed your name to Array? I’ll add my reply to your other comment in case you no longer see responses to this message.
Another question that occurs to me is: what is being lost in order to build this? I assume there isn’t just a vacant lot of such size in such an old and densely-inhabited city, so presumably some existing buildings will be torn down to clear space for the new one. If they’re just old generic apartment blocks and shops, it’s not much of a loss, but ten skyscrapers wouldn’t be worth losing one Musée Carnavalet.
Regarding the people of Giza, they might have been annoyed with the pyramid but they were particularly pissed off about being enslaved.
Yes, you’re right, Parisians have a reputation for opposing change–a quality that has pros and cons. As James says, Paris does have a skyscraper district, called La Defense.
La Tour Triangle is being built upon property that houses the Paris Expo, a massive exhibition space. My understanding is that in preparing the site, they only needed to tear down 1 out of 8 large pavilions.
That’s odd about the username….. the internet moves in mysterious ways. Well, it still links to my blog, so people will know who it is.
It’s a common misconception that the pyramids of Giza were built by slaves. Ancient Egypt certainly had slavery (though the ancient Hebrews were never there, of course), but the pyramids seem to have been built by ordinary laborers, not slaves.
Glad to hear no architectural treasures were lost to facilitate the new skyscraper.
Wow! Good to know about the pyramids. Charleston Heston might be the source of my misinformation. I feel I can count on your vast knowledge for setting the record straight. Thanks as always for your insightful comments.
Our suburban community, with nary an Eiffel Tower in sight, was torn apart some years ago between those who supported a slightly taller building than the usual and those who felt it would be the town’s death knell. Large structure built at edge of town; town gained less financially bc all but one developer had lost interest. Town somehow survived. Always tugs and pulls to change.
I can’t say the austere triangle appeals to me, but I’m sure I could get used to it…
Thanks for sharing your town’s experience Annie. I live in a college town and while I don’t mind the tall buildings that have sprung up in the last 15 years per se, I am horrified by the fact that almost every one of them is marketed as a luxury dwelling for students. The facilities, however, are not what I’d call luxurious. For example, a 4 bedroom apartment where every resident has their own bedroom but the only shared space is a kitchen. No living room. And, the absentee landlord (not a citizen of city) charges huge prices–as if college tuition isn’t crippling enough these days.
The shape and design is not bad. And it’s enough “down south of Paris” to not mar any view.
I do have serious doubts about the financial dealings. There is a lot of hidden corruption in Paris (or France) and the Socialists are no better than the others. I also agree with the argument of “who needs more office space?”.
personally? In the days of home office, I would transform 30-40% of La Défense into residential housing. Solve Paris housing problems. Reduce commuter traffic… etc.
Great ideas Brieuc. You have my vote! 🙂
Thank you. I may run for office then.
Did I send my comment?
Got it. Merci beaucoup.
PS. Have a nice Sunday Carol.
Merci. C’est mon anniversaire en fait!
Demain? Super. Bon anniversaire. Many happy returns of the day.
Cake and birthday party underway. (Re-) Bon anniversaire
You’re right to keep an open mind. Most architecture takes a while to understand. I’ve heard Parisian commentary about rebuilding Notre Dame, and some of it is so retro it’s depressing. Do you follow this blogger: https://piermanparis.com/
She doesn’t post much, but when she does, she’s very entertaining.
Notre Dame is being restored so some of the complaints are surprising. When finished it will look the same only fresher. However, they are spending a fortune on the project. So, I understand those who question the massive allocation of funds when there is such great need elsewhere in France and around the world.
Thanks for the link!