Looking for an off-beat place to visit in Paris? Have you heard about La Grande Arche in La Défense located in western Paris? Today, I’m going to provide you with some information on a modern day Arc de Triomphe aka La Grande Arche de la Défense, standing as a monument to humanity.
La Grande Arche de la Défense
La Grande Arche de la Défense which is simply called La Grande Arche or Grand Arche was primarily built with the concept of modern-day Arc de Triomphe. French President François Mitterrand supported the idea of urban Grand Arche as a 20th-century monument for Arch de Triomphe to stand by Humanitarian views. As the older Arc De Triomphe refers to the military wins, La Grand Arche was perceived as a tribute to humanity. The idea was captured in 1980 and the construction of the La Grand Arche monument began in 1985 and was ready in 1989. La Grande Arche was designed by a Danish architect – Otto von Spreckelsen and later Erik Reitzel.
La Grande Arche de la defense is a cube-shaped structure standing tall at 116 meters to give an insight into a three-dimensional era. As opposed to the Arc De Triomphe, La Grande Arch is built primarily of glass and marble from Italy. An important point to note here is that the La Grande Arche is placed at an angle to form a peripheral axis to Tour Eiffel and Tour Montparnasse – two highest buildings in Paris.
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There was a viewing deck on the top of La Grande Arche de la defense was closed due to an accident in 2010 which is why I couldn’t get visit the top view of Paris and Eiffel from here. Although it has now reopened back in 2017 and now also has a restaurant and a museum for tourists.
La Défense is the largest office complex in Europe and is filled with skyscrapers and urban architecture. After the First World War concluded, an axis from the Arc De Triomphe was planned at the Etoile to La Défense which is the western edge of Paris city. There was ambiguity over the height of buildings to be built there as per current Triumphal manner. Later it was agreed to build urban skyscrapers at the end of long avenue so as to avoid the obstruction of Etoile’s view.
In 1931 though, the authorities organized a new competition, but the intent was to limit the height of the buildings along the Triumphal Way. Only at the end of the long avenue, at the Défense towers were allowed. This was recommended by the authorities as towers close to the center would obstruct the view on the Etoile.
A Forest of Towers
After the second World War ended, at the beginning of the 1950s the La Défense site was selected as an office space. The forest of towers were the first skyscrapers to be built of equal height. The towers would contain 25 stories where 25 offices will come up. Later on, various companies started to root for taller towers and hence the complex today holds various towers of varied heights. The highest tower stands at 589 feet, and this caused public criticism towards the forest of towers which ultimately led the authorities to build modern age La Grande Arche de la defense.
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Shopping at La Défense
Considering the largest business complex in Paris, and connected through RER trains, the La Défense holds a basement for a mini shopping mall. The shopping at La Défense is pretty economical as compared to other areas of Paris. I bought so many perfumes, watches, and clothes as souvenirs from La Défense for my family back home. So, don’t hold back and limit yourself to the typical Paris as seen in the Instagram era, but also visit this urban side of Paris to shop, dine or simply hang out.
Have you been to La Grande Arche de la defense or work there? Do share your experience with me!
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– The Wanderer