La Défense

 Grand arc (3 D representation of 4 D) La Défense lies on the Seine River, west of Paris’s 17th arrondissement. Although it is named after the statue of La Défense (which was erected in honour of the Parisians who resisted during the Franco-Prussian War), the area actually has nothing to do with the French military. In fact this 750 hectare space is the business district of Paris, which is home to about 20,000 people. It also houses more than half of France’s 20 largest corporations and hence, has over 150,000 people working here. Conceived in 1958, La Défense was created to accommodate the growing business and modernist needs of that time without tainting the rest of Paris, which proudly showcases its heritage. Having started off as an ambitious civil engineering project, La Défense is now home to hundreds of skyscrapers that sport the styles from the sixties to the new millennia. This successful business hub has reinvented itself numerous times (see the generations of skyscrapers for evidence) and is set to do so again, with the La Défense development project 2006-2015. Currently, it offers great shopping and modern dining options, as it gives off a rather ‘Manhattan-ish’ vibe.

 

STREET MAP LA DÉFENSE

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  1. Grande Arche de La Défense  2. CNIT Building  3. Place de La Défense  

 

 

 

FRANCE ILE DE FRANCE HAUTS DE SEINE grande arche de la défenseThe first structure to be built in La Défense was the Centre des Nouvelles des Industrries et Technologies (CNIT) [2 place de la Défense, +33 146922602 www.cnit.com/]. This giant building that somewhat seems like a pregnant oyster, has been revamped recently and now functions as a large shopping mall attracting a significant crowd. 

However, the most important sight in La Défense is the Grande Arche de la Défense [see above photo, 1 Parvis de la Défense, www.grandearche.com]. The Great Arc was built in 1989 to commemorate the bicentenary of the French Revolution and act as a monument of humanitarian ideals. Hence, it is rightfully modelled after the Arc de Triomphe. Designed by Dutch duo Johann Otto Van Spreckelsen and Erik Peitzel, the arc stands at a height of 110m with a width of 108m. It comprises of concrete, marble and glass, making it seems like a gleaming, ‘other-worldly’ portal at night. The arc stands as a closure to the Axe Historique (a western-bound imaginary margin which was created in the 17th century with the intent of lining up monuments and buildings across the centre of Paris) and is the 3rd arc on this line. It is positioned at a slight angle, so as to allow an uninterrupted view all the way to the Louvre and possibly the Notre Dame Cathedral. The sides of the arc are home to ministry bodies, international companies and the EU (European Union) information centre. 

The Arc also houses galleries that display the construction and history of the arc, as well as an interesting Museum of Computing that presents a collection that documents the technological development of computing technology from its invention during the Second World War. This impressive structure can be scaled via a glass elevator that whisks you to the rooftop. However, the Grand Arc is currently closed and its reopening date is yet to be released. 

Also worth a visit is the Musée de La Défense [15 Place de la Défense, www.ladefense.fr Free] which traces the historical and architectural roots of the area. The museum offers a comprehensive display fitted with scale models, drawings and architectural plans of past and current projects. It even displays the plans of building projects that did not make the cut over the years. 

La Défense has also set aside a small space for those who wish to escape the bustling city centre. You can stroll down Le Parvis, place de la Défense and Esplanade de Général de Gaulle to see the garden of contemporary art, which is lined with over 60 life-size sculptures, earning the name Voie des Sculptures. You can also head southeast of  place de la Défense to find the sculpture that gave the district its name.