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La Defense

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La Defense

La Défense
Sovereign state France
Région Île-de-France
Département Hauts-de-Seine
 • Total
Population (2006)
 • Total 25.000
Time zone UTC+01:00

La Défense (pronounced [la de.fɑ̃s]) is a major business district near Paris, in France.

La Défense is Europe's largest purpose-built business district[1] with its 560 hectares (5.6 million square metres) area, its 72 glass and steel buildings and skyscrapers, its 180,000 daily workers, and 3.5 million square metres (37.7 million sq ft) of office space.[2] Around its Grande Arche and esplanade ("le Parvis"), La Défense contains many of the Paris urban area's tallest high-rises, and is home to no fewer than 1,500 corporate head offices, including those of 15 of the top 50 companies in the world.[1]

The district is located at the western-most extremity of the ten-kilometre-long Historical Axis of Paris, which starts at the Louvre in Central Paris, and continues along the Champs-Élysées, well beyond the Arc de Triomphe before culminating at La Défense. The district is centred in an orbital motorway straddling the Hauts-de-Seine département municipalities of Courbevoie, Nanterre and Puteaux. La Défense is primarily a business district, and hosts only a population of 25,000 permanent residents and 45,000 students.[2][3] La Défense is also visited by 8,000,000 tourists each year,[2] and houses an open-air museum.[4]


La Défense is named after the iconic statue La Défense de Paris, which was erected in 1883 to commemorate the soldiers who had defended Paris during the Franco-Prussian War.

In September 1958, The Public Establishment for Installation of La Défense (EPAD) buildings (of which the Esso Tower was the very first) were built and began to slowly replace the city's factories, shanties, and even a few farms. The Center of New Industries and Technologies (CNIT) was built and first used in 1958. These "first generation" skyscrapers were all very similar in appearance, limited to a height of 100 metres (330 ft). In 1966, the Nobel Tower was the first office skyscraper built in the area. In 1970, the RER line A railway was opened from La Défense to Étoile. In 1974, a contract for a Défense-Cergy high-speed hovercraft train was signed and soon abandoned.

In the early 1970s, in response to great demand, a second generation of buildings began to appear, but the economic crisis in 1973 nearly halted all construction in the area. A third generation of towers began to appear in the early 1980s. The biggest commercial centre in Europe (at the time), the Quatre Temps, was created in 1981. In 1982, the EPAD launched the Tête Défense competition to find a monument to complete the Axe historique, which eventually led to the construction of Grande Arche at the west end of the quarter. During the same period, hotels were constructed, the CNIT was restructured, and in 1992, Line 1 of the Paris Métro was extended to La Défense, which made the area readily accessible to even more of the city.

On Bastille Day 1990, French electronic composer Jean Michel Jarre staged an ambitious concert at the site, using the Grande Arche and three of the area's towers as projection screens, and building a pyramidal stage above the road. The free concert, titled simply Paris la Defense, attracted two million spectators, stretching all the way back to the Arc de Triomphe. This beat Jarre's own previous world record for the largest attendance for a musical concert.

After a stagnation in new development in the mid-1990s, La Défense is once again expanding and is now the largest purpose-built business district in Europe.

Important corporations headquartered at La Défense include Neuf Cegetel, Société Générale, Total, Aventis, Areva, and Arcelor. The tallest skyscraper, the Tour First belongs to AXA, constructed in 1974. It is 231 metres (758 ft) high, has 50 floors, and is the highest inhabited building in the Paris area (a title previously held by the Tour Montparnasse, which was the tallest inhabited building until the Tour First was renovated between 2007 and 2011, bringing it to its current height from a previous 159 metres (522 ft); the tallest structure in Paris is the Eiffel Tower).

On 9 September 2008, La Défense celebrated its 50th anniversary with a huge fireworks display.[5]

In December 2005, Bernard Bled, CEO & Chairman of EPAD (La Defense Management & Development Office) announced an ambitious 9-year development plan called "La Defense 2006–2015".This important modernisation plan has to give a new dimension to the district and focuses on four main axes: regenerate outdated skyscrapers, allow new buildings, improve the balance between offices and residential housing and make the transport of local employees from their homes to La Défense easier. There are 3 aims: building 150,000 square metres (1,600,000 sq ft) of offices within demolition/rebuilding projects, building 300,000 square metres (3,200,000 sq ft) of offices within new projects, and building 100,000 square metres (1,100,000 sq ft) of housing.

The government confirmed in July 2006 this plan which has to be carried out around 2015. It is justified by the strong estate pressure, which plays in favour of building new skyscrapers near Paris. Those constructions have also the advantage to be more economical than little buildings. But it will have to overcome some difficulties: French economy faces a short-term slowdown; the government tries to balance tertiary sector employment in the whole region again, because La Défense today concentrates a major part of those jobs; and traffic is already saturated in the district, while it would need huge investments to extend transport infrastructures.

It launched high profile international competitions and/or construction greenlight of several key 300-to-320-metre (980 to 1,050 ft) tall sustainable development-style skyscrapers such as Tour Signal, Tour Phare, Hermitage Plaza, and Tour Generali. During said December 2005 Press Conference, EPAD released to the public an elaborate 3D animation film titled "La Défense 2015".

Area specifications

  • Divided into 12 sectors
  • 400 acres (1.6 km2)
  • 3,500,000 square metres (38,000,000 sq ft) of offices
  • 1,500 businesses (of which 14 from the national top 20 and 15 from the global top 50)
  • 150,000 employees
  • 20,000 residents
  • 210,000 square metres (2,300,000 sq ft) of shops (including the 140,000 square metres (1,500,000 sq ft) Quatre Temps Shopping Mall)
  • 2,600 hotel rooms
  • 310,000 square metres (3,300,000 sq ft) of flagstone and sidewalk
  • 110,000 square metres (1,200,000 sq ft) of greenery
  • 60 modern art sculptures and monuments

Open-air museum

Besides the representative architecture, the area also houses an open-air museum with 60 statues and pieces of modern art,[4] including the following most remarkable works :

La Défense tallest towers

Completed highrise buildings above 90 m (300 ft) (1967–2008)

Name Built Use Height Levels Municipality
metres feet
Tour First (formerly tour AXA) 1974/2010 office 231 787 55 Courbevoie
Tour Total (Coupole) 1985 office 187 614 48 Courbevoie
Tour GDF Suez (T1) 2008 office 185 610 37 Courbevoie
Tour Areva 1974 office 184 607 44 Courbevoie
Tour Granite (Société Générale) 2008 office 183 603 37 Nanterre
Tour CB21 (formerly tour Gan) 1974 office 179 587 42 Courbevoie
Tour D2 2013 office 175 574 37 Courbevoie
Tour Alicante (Société Générale) 1995 office 167 548 37 Nanterre
Tour Chassagne (Société Générale) 1995 office 167 548 37 Nanterre
Tour Carpe Diem 2013 office 166 545 34 Courbevoie
Tour EDF 2001 office 165 541 41 Puteaux
Cœur Défense 2001 office 161 528 40 Courbevoie
Tour Adria (Technip) 2002 office 155 509 40 Courbevoie
Tour Égée (Ernst&Young) 1999 office 155 509 40 Courbevoie
Tour Ariane 1975 office 152 499 36 Puteaux
Tour Dexia (CBX) 2005 office 142 466 36 Courbevoie
Tour Défense 2000 1974 residential 136 446 46 Puteaux
Tour Europlaza 1995 office 135 443 31 Courbevoie
Tour Eqho (formerly tour Descartes) 1988 office 130 427 40 Courbevoie
Tour Les Poissons 1970 mixed 128 420 42 Courbevoie
Tour France 1973 residential 126 413 40 Puteaux
Tour Franklin 1972 office 120 394 33 Puteaux
Tour Sequoia (Bull, Cegetel, SFR) 1990 office 119 390 33 Puteaux
Tour Winterthur 1973 office 119 390 33 Puteaux
Tour Logica (CB16) 2003 office 117 295 32 Courbevoie
Tour Neptune 1972 office 113 371 28 Courbevoie
Préfecture des Hauts-de-Seine 1974 office 113 371 25 Nanterre
Grande Arche 1989 monument, office 110 361 37 Puteaux
Tour Manhattan 1975 office 110 361 32 Courbevoie
Tour Aurore 1970 office 110 361 29 Courbevoie
Tour Eve 1975 mixed 109 358 30 Puteaux
Tour Initiale 1967 office 109 358 30 Puteaux
Tour Nuage 1, Tours Aillaud 1976 residential 105 344 39 Nanterre
Tour Nuage 2, Tours Aillaud 1976 residential 105 344 39 Nanterre
Tour Gambetta 1975 residential 104 341 37 Courbevoie
Tour Cèdre 1998 office 103 338 26 Courbevoie
Tour Opus12 1973 office 100 328 27 Puteaux
Tour Athéna 1984 office 100 328 25 Puteaux
Tour Europe 1969 office 99 325 28 Courbevoie
Tour AIG 1967 office 99 325 27 Courbevoie
Tour Prisma (Tour Kvaerner) 1998 office 97 318 25 Courbevoie
Tour Atlantique 1970 office 95 312 27 Puteaux
Tour Pascal 1983 office 95 312 27 Puteaux
Tour Pacific 1992 office 90 295 25 Puteaux

Upcoming highrise buildings (2010–2016)

Name Use Height Levels Municipality Status (2008) Estimated Year of Completion
metres feet
Hermitage Plaza II mix 323 1,060 93 Courbevoie approved 2018
Hermitage Plaza I mix 323 1,060 91 Courbevoie approved 2018
Tour Phare office 297 974 68 Courbevoie approved 2017
Tour Air² office 202 720 43 Courbevoie approved[6] 2014
Tour Majunga office 195 640 47 Puteaux under construction[6] 2014
Tour D2 office 171 574 37 Courbevoie under construction[6] 2014
Tour Trinity office 151 495 31 Courbevoie approved[6] 2017
Tour Alto office 150 492 38 Courbevoie approved[6] 2016
Tour AVA office 143 459 34 Courbevoie approved 2014
Hôtel Melia hotel 87 285 23 Courbevoie under construction 2014

Canceled projects

  1. Tour Sans Fins (1989): 425 m (1,394 ft)

See also

Paris portal


Further reading

External links

  • Satellite image from Google Maps
  • la Défense de Paris
  • (French) Site officiel de l'EPAD (Établissement Public pour l'Aménagement de la Défense)
  • (English) Connecting-Paris, web site created by the Chamber of commerce and industry of Paris to help companies setting up in La Defense
  • (English) Expatriates Magazine, A printed publication distributed within various corporations situated in La Defense helping international employees integrate within the workplace and city
  • (French) Les bâtiments de la Défense
  • (English) Structurae: Structural engineering and architecture guide to Paris-La Défense
  • Défense Network

Coordinates: 48°53′30.27″N 2°14′27.00″E / 48.8917417°N 2.2408333°E / 48.8917417; 2.2408333

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