La Grande Arche de la Défense is one of those places that often gets forgotten when planning a long weekend in Paris. But, head out from the Louvre, through the Jardin des Tuileries, across the Place de la Concorde, up the Champs Elysees and through the Arc de Triomphe. After that just keep going for a mile or so and you’ll arrive at la Défense district. Straight ahead of you is the Grande Arche, of course you’ll know that by now; it’s been easily to see since the Arc de Triomphe; slowly growing as you draw near to it.
I first encountered this building during my last visit to Paris and watched the sun setting over it. That was six years ago, looking west, from the top of the Arc de triomphe. Finally, this year, I’ve had the opportunity to go back and see it up close. It’s a shame renovation was going on; it would have been nice to see the clean structure in all it’s glory. However access to the roof is once again open to the public and well worth the visit. A visit to the roof costs a few euro’s and is straight up in the glass lifts underneath the arch. Once up on the roof the views over Paris and the business distinct are spectacular.
La Grande Arche de la Défense
In 1982, a great national design competition was launched as an initiative of French president François Mitterrand. Danish architect, Johann Otto von Spreckelsen, and Danish engineer, Erik Reitzel, designed the winning entry. The result; a late-20th-century version of the Arc de Triomphe. The Grande Arche was dedicated as a monument to humanity and humanitarian ideals rather than military victories.
The construction of the monument began in 1985. However, in July 1986 Spreckelsen resigned and ratified the transfer of all his architectural responsibilities to his associate; the French architect Paul Andreu. Reitzel, the engineer, continued his work until the monument was completed in 1989.
The Arche is in the approximate shape of a cube; with a width, depth and height each measuring 110m. It’s been suggested that the structure looks like a hypercube (or tesseract) projected onto the three-dimensional world.
The meathod of construction consists a concrete frame faced with glass and white marble. Construction work was carried out by French civil engineering company, ‘Bouygues’.
The Arche is turned slightly on the vertical axix by an angle of 6.33°. Turning it on the main axis that runs through the Arc de Triomphe. The key reason for this turn was physical; with the métro station, RER station, and a motorway all situated directly underneath the Arche, the angle was the only way to accommodate the structure’s massive foundations.
From an architectural point of view, the turn emphasizes the depth of the monument and reflects the turn of the Louvre at the other end of the Axe historique.
La Grande Arche de la Défense was inaugurated in July 1989. This coincided with grand military parades that marking the bicentennial of the French Revolution. It completed the line of monuments that forms the Axe historique running through Paris.
Both vertical faces of the Arche house are predominately used as government offices. The roof section was once an exhibition centre, housing the Musée de l’Informatique (Computing Museum). However following an accident in 2010 the computer museum and roof terrace were closed to visitors. The roof terrace was and cafe were reopened to the public in 2017 and is popular for its views of Paris.