World architects go head-to-head for new Paris skyscraper

World architects go head-to-head for new Paris skyscraper

27th May 2008, Comments 0 comments

La Defense's "Signal Tower", at 300 metres (990 feet) high, will rival the Eiffel Tower on the Paris skyline.

   Paris officials will Tuesday pick between some of the world's top architects to build a landmark new skyscraper on the city's western rim to rival the Eiffel Tower.

   Tipped as favourite to clinch the mega-contract in the La Defense business
district is Frenchman Jean Nouvel, whose rectangular white tower mixing
offices, flats, hotel rooms and shops aims to become a hub for local life.

   But Nouvel, who won this year's Pritzker Architecture Prize, the industry's
top award, faces world-class competition for the "Signal Tower" project, part
of a wide-ranging plan to rejuvenate the half-century old business quarter.

   Also in the running are British designer Norman Foster and the American
Daniel Libeskind -- chosen to rebuild Ground Zero, the site of the September 11 attacks -- as well as the Frenchmen Jean-Michel Wilmotte and Jacques

   Each backed by a separate group of investors, the five projects would tower
at around 300 metres (990 feet) high -- rivalling the Eiffel Tower which soars
324 metres above the Paris skyline.

   La Defense's first building, a vast shell-shaped white dome called the
CNIT, was built in 1958, while another landmark, the Great Arch was built in
the axis of the Champs Elysees Avenue and Arc de Triomphe in 1989.

   Europe's largest business district, La Defense is used by 400,000 people
each day, is home to 2,500 company headquarters as well as 20,000 residents,
but it has often been criticised as a cold, faceless place to live and work.

   Seventeen buildings are scheduled for demolition by 2013, to be replaced by
new skyscrapers, shops, parks and cycle lanes, as part of a renovation plan
overseen by a French public body, the EPAD.

   The "Signal Tower" is the second major skyscraper project to be launched in
La Defense since 2006, when US architect Thom Mayne won a contract to build a soaring structure called "Le Phare" (The Lighthouse), due for delivery in 2012.

   Strict building regulations have until now kept most high-rises firmly outside the Paris city walls -- with a few notable exceptions such as the Tour Montparnasse which rises 180 metres over the southwest of the capital.

   But Paris's Socialist mayor Bertrand Delanoe has sparked controversy by
suggesting a handful of skyscrapers could be built just inside the city walls,
to revitalise run-down parts of the capital.

 (AFP - Expatica May 2008)

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