La Défense

This suburb is where most of Paris skyscrapers and modern buildings are situated. Situated just west of Bois de Boulogne and north of the city center, this suburb actually consists of 3 different independent communities -Puteaux, Courbevoie and Nanterre. But it feels more like a district that is part of Paris as you can see the old Arch of Triumph from there, so it is not so far from central Paris. The two tallest towers in Paris, Tour Eiffel and Tour Montparnasse, are situated within the city border, however. La Défense is Europe´s largest business district and construction begun here in the 1960s. Some of the tallest buildings in Europe are situated there and only Frankfurt can compete with this skyline in Europe. The most famous landmarks of La Défense are, except for the skyscrapers, La Grande Arche, CNIT and Elysée La Défense, that contains Europe's largest shopping mall.

Unfortunately the weather wasn't so good in the first half of my photo session, but after a while the sky turned blue.

Tour Gan. 187m, 42 floors, built already in 1974. This dark glass box skyscraper is what meets you when going up from the escalator of the Esplanade de la Défense metro station. Gan is an assurance company and this is the 2nd tallest building of La Défense (3rd tallest skyscraper in metro Paris).

La Grande Arche. "The new arch of triumph" is more than twice as tall and big as the old one. La Grande Arche is 111m tall, was completed in 1989 and was drawn by the Danish architect Otto von Spreckelsen. It is not only a monument, it also hosts offices and an observation deck. It is belonging to the city of Puteaux. It has 35 floors, is built by marble, granite and glass and Nôtre-Dame could easily fit beneath the arch.

CNIT. CNIT is wellknown symbol of La Défense and has a very futuristic design, but was actually built before the skyscrapers, as early as -believe it or not- in 1958!

Tour Total Fina Elf is the tallest building in La Défense, the 2nd tallest building in France and the 3rd tallest structure in Greater Paris. It is in my opinion also one of Europe's nicest skyscrapers with its blue glass façade.

Tour Total Fina Elf is 187m tall and has 48 floors. It was built in 1985.

Societé Generale, built in 1995, is situated on the backside of La Grande Arche and is a bit off from the other skyscrapers.

It is 167m tall and has 38 floors.

Its blue glass reminds me of some Texas skyscraper. It shapes a V to the sky.

The 40-storey Tour EDF, 165m tall, was also under construction when I was there in 2000, and was completed in 2001, just like Coeur Défense. It is in my opinion one of Europe's best designed skyscrapers! The architect firm, Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, also designed the pretty similar looking Hyatt Center in Chicago.

Coeur Défense. This 40-storey skyscraper was under construction when I was there in the summer 2000. It was completed in 2001 and is 161m tall.

CNIT, La Grande Arche and Tour Sequoia.

The many mirroring glass buildings made me think about some big city in Texas.

The wide esplanade of La Défense goes towards La Grande Arche and is bordered by many of the skyscrapers in the district. It is only for pedestrians and very little traffic is visible in La Défense, even though some large highways are surrounding the district. When walking from central Paris, everything on the left side of the esplanade belong to the suburb Puteaux and everything on the right side to the suburb Courbevoie. Behind La Grande Arche is Nanterre, another suburb.

Tour Intiale (105m) mirroring in a pound. Built already in 1966, this was the first skyscraper of La Défense.

Tour Axa from 1974 will soon undergo a recladding of the exterior. 159m, 41 floors.

Here you can see that Arch of Triumph and central Paris is not so far.

The first thing we saw in La Défense, after passing Tour Gan, was not skyscrapers. No, it was cows in different shapes and colours! A nice contrast to the grey weather, may be?

Tour Gan and some ugly 60s building.

A glass building and some cows.

This multicoloured modernist sculpture is somewhat of a symbol of La Défense. Ugly and psychedelic. The glass building in the background has some kind of red glass.

Tour Ariane (152m, 36 floors) from 1975.

CBX Tower. Built as late as in 2005, the building has 34 floors and is 143m tall.

Tour Descartes from 1988. 140m, 40 floors.

A modern glass atrium.

Tour EDF to the right and Opus 12 to the left.

Tour Areva, known as the wellknown Fiat Tower for a long time. Designed by famous Skidmore, Owing & Merrill, that was inspired by the black monolith in Stanley Kubrick's "2001: a Space Odyssey". It was completed in 1974 and is 184m tall and has 44 floors.

The rainbow colours of this artificial pound in front of La Grande Arche cannot help the grey sky.

CNIT seen from La Grande Arche. I think it feels and look a bit like an airport terminal.

The futuristic atrium of CNIT. The building is 50m to the top.

There is glass elevators, offices, stores, conference rooms and a Hilton hotel inside CNIT.

Even inside CNIT, there is a cow! I bought a new 256MB memory card for my digicam for just 10 euro at the FNAC electronics store in the CNIT building!

Skyline of the Puteaux side of La Défense.

Elysée La Défense. This large glass building hosts Les Quatre Temps, Europe's largest shopping mall. It has 260 stores, among them a Swedish H&M store and the British Mark & Spencers.

Les Quatre Temps has several atriums and is light and modern. We visited the hypermarket Auchan inside the mall, where we I was checked by a guard just to be allowed to get inside. Before I was allowed to get inside, I had to put my used cans in a plastic bag to avoid beeping. Very stupid invention that I have never seen before! Auchan was very large, very fresh and cheap and we bought some cheap bakeries and vine there, that we used on the stairs of La Grande Arche!

Les Quatre Temps, Societé Generale and La Grande Arche.

An oldfashioned roundabout in the middle of the skyscrapers.

Tour Areva and Tour Total Fina Elf.

A sculpture by Miró. There are many modern sculptures in La Défense.

Le Dome is a 3D cinema adjacent to Les Quatre Temps. The buildings behind might not look so tall, but it is an optical illustion. It is the 34-storey Tour Michelet.

La Grande Arche and CNIT.

Skyline with CNIT and skyscrapers.

Note that the classic "mini tourist train" imitates a modern TGV highspeed train instead of a locomotive.

La Grande Arch.

More images of La Grande Arch:

The stairs of La Grande Arche, where we were drinking the vine and the bakeries that we bought in Auchan.

The fast glass enclosed panorama elevators takes you up to the floor of the top.

These kind of chrome sculptures are mad by the same artist and are placed all other the world.

The roof of the arch.

We were riding the glass enclosed panorama elevators up to the observation deck. From the elevator, we were able to see in almost all directions!

Views from La Grande Arch:

Seen from the panorama elevator: The skyline of La Défense from above with Arch of Triumph far in the middle of the skyscrapers and Eiffel Tower far to the right.

Architecture from the elevator.

From the observation deck, there were only views visible to the east. The only thing I could see in the other direction is the top of Societé Generale.

Note the Eiffel Tower to the right of Tour EDF.

From above you can clearly see the tile patterns.

This is the roof where the elevator stops. There is an art exhibition inside the top.

Paintings and even more sculptures made by the same artist who made the sculptures on the ground. The painting on the photo represent the view from La Grande Arche.

Looking down the elevator shaft when there is no elevator!

Tour Sequoia. Modern 33-storey glass building built in 1990.

Skyscrapers mirroring in La Grande Arch.

Tour Egée, built in 1999, 150m and 40 floors. Seen from La Grande Arche.

Renaissance Hotel.

A huge curved glass building.

A classic sculpture meets a modern glass building, KPMG. A very nice mix, in my opinion!

The same sculpture meets a modern arch.

The stunning Societé Generale. These American styled curved twin towers are among the nicest designed skyscrapers in the whole Europe!

Societé Generale again.

Not so tall yet, but Tour Granite in Nanterre will be 180m tall in 2007 and have 40 floors.

A rainbow shaped bridge.

The strange Tours Aillaud, 10 towers drawn by Emile Aillaud, are a part of the city of Nanterre. The 2 tallest ones, the 39-storey Tour Nuage 1 and 2, are 100m tall each, and the 8 rest have 20 floors each. The grey concrete exteriors are painted in different colours, like some kind of upgraded commie blocks. It is hard to decide if they are ugly or not.

The futuristic rainbow bridge and the round glass building again.

Los Angeles? No, Paris!

Tour Pacific, Societé Generale and Renaissance Hotel.

After we visited Societé Generale we got lost. We wanted to walk back to the metro station between the northeast of La Défense, but as we had been walking for some minutes from the backside of Societé Generale among parking garages, there was only roads everywhere and no place for pedestrians. It was very sunny now so we didn't want to get back at that point. So we crossed one road when the traffic was stopping and finally our walk was stopped by a huge parking garage and there was nowhere to go. A nice worker went to get his keys and then locked up some doors so we could walk through the garage. We had to take an elevator up and finally landed in a modern glass atrium(on the 2 pictures above), where we could walk out the door to the promenade of La Défense. There was no indication that we couldn't take that way and I think it is very crazy that a pavement suddenly is stopped by roads and parking garages! Feels like it is too inspired by American city planning…

Finger sculpture made by César Baldaccini in front of Tour Sequoia.

Tour Fina Elf and Tour Areva.

Tour T1 will be completed in 2008 as La Défense´s 3rd tallest skyscraper. The glass exterior will be very curvy and the height will be 185m and 35 floors.

Some black sculptures beneath CNIT.

The 15-storey Tour Exaltis will be completed in 2006. In the background is Coeur Défense.

Tour Eiffel seen between the highrises.

I got an idea that the skyline of the whole La Défense should be visible if we went of the metro at Pont de Neuilly station. And this was not so bad idea after all. At this circular place on Avenue de Charles de Gaulle there is a nice fountain and flower arrangements. La Défense skyline from the left: Tour Intiale, La Grande Arche, Coeur Défense, Tour Gan, Tour Axa, with Novotel/Ibis Hotel below.

From the same place you can see Arch of Triumph in the other direction.