The approach I have chosen for this tour is neither architectural, pictural, or sculptural. We'll talk about History, Politics and Urbanism. From where is born La Defense? Why can we speak about an utopian city? How could a few entrepreneurs have change so much of La Défense's face? What's its identity? What should it become? Come to discover it!
La Défense: Emergence of a district is an interactive pedestrian tour. We'll follow the Historical axis to have a view beyond la Grande Arche. The aim of the tour? To understand the story of the emergence of La Défense.
The first step of our tour is about the Historical axis. We'll see how this idea of an axis was born, and what it is today. We'll see that will ideally positions La Défense in a space where architectural projects will develop around. We shall also ask ourself what is historical about this axis, if the word is really appropriate or if you should talk about the "Great axis".
La Défense was born in 1958, from the creation of a Public Establishment called EPAD. The Minister of Construction named 3 architects to take charge of it: Camelot, de Mailly and Zehrfuss. Together, they'll think about the mass-plan that the district will follow since 1964. This mass-plan is characterized by Le Corbusier's influence and his writing la Charte d’Athènes, which gives to the project a very utopian dimension.
The district took its name from the roundabout of La Défense, which were located at Courbevoie. This roundabout had on its center since 1883 a statue of Eugène Barrias called "La Défense". In fact it's the monument that gave the name to the roundabout, and to the future business district. The statue came from a sculpture contest of 1879, the day after the franco-prussien conflict, and to celebrate Parisian's bravery because they defended Paris from siege. Among the competitors, great names like Falguière, Rodin or Bertholdi, but Barrias won with this monument of a rare patriotic force...
We should now speak of 5 generations of towers at La Défense. As the 1G is the one of the mass-plan towers, the second one allows to see the rise of higher towers, such as the famous controversy about Gan Tower in 1972, after Jean Millier's impulse to make La Défense attractive to promoters. 3G and 4G is about an entrepreneur promoter named Christian Pellerin who offers very energy-efficient and competitive tours. 5G brings more diversity into the tower landscape, thanks to the renewal plan of 2005, made by Nicolas Sarkozy.
The originality of the CNIT, it’s that it was at La Défense before La Défense. It’s a real estate developer that has a lot of nose and decided to put his building there to make it an exhibition palace. It’s a crazy architectural bet : to cover up all the field with a concrete vault with as less support point on the ground as possible. It has been possible thanks to the three architects of the mass-plan and to the engineer Nicolas Esquillan, and that makes it today an incredible building because of its world réformes and because the modernity it embody.
For a long time, the question of an ending or extension to the historical axis exists. We want here to build a monument to contribue to this perspective towards Paris. There were a lot of projects like Cybernetic Light Tower of Schöffer, the Tuning Forks Towers of Pei, mirror buildings of Aillaud or the cristal buildings of Willerval. But the winning one which had a lot of success was the hypercube of Johan Otto Spreckelsen. Why? The monument answers to Paris’ arches and is highly symbolic and modern. It’sest hautement symbolique et moderne et renferme un sacré génie civil.
A little extra, if you want to discover my visits. These videos are :
Meeting point: Métro 1 "Esplanade de La Défense", exit 1 "Courbevoie Quartier Iris" — Then, look for my flag !
Price: 156€ — 20% discount for school group (130€) — The price takes into account the translation effort
Language: In english.
Accessible for the people with reduced mobility..