Architects: Johann Otto von Spreckelsen
Location: la Défense, Paris, France
Architect: Johann Otto von Sprekelsen
References: Donald Langmead, Christine Garnaut, Philip Jodidio, Paul Andreu, Dennis Sharp, www.galinsky.com, www.placesinfrance.com
Project Year: 1989
Photographs: Hardouin / Wikimedia Commons
From the architect. The Grande Arche is a celebrated monument which marks the bicentennial of the French Revolution and is a distinctive piece reminiscent of 20th century architecture. The competition for a “modernized Arche de Triomphe” was won by Johann Otto von Spreckelsen, whose concept was more or less a hollowed, symmetrical cube.
Situated just outside of Paris in the business district of la Défense, the Grande Arche completes the Historical Axis - extending from the Louvre along the Champs-Elysees to the Arche de Triomphe - and guides Paris to the future.
The Arche was designed to be an infrastructural canopy and is esteemed for its purity in form. The 110 meter long, wide, and tall hypercube is made of concrete and marble and features reflective glazing on the outside walls. It is supposed that the Notre Dame could fit in this carved out void
The massive scale of the Arche is most obvious in its atrium, which hosts a parasitic stretched Teflon mesh. This portion of the building was an afterthought added to the project once Paul Andreau took over the project.
The innovative awning allows wind and light to permeate, while shielding visitors from the elements. This seemingly cloudlike structure is fastened by tensioned cables which clutches onto the building’s facade, and whose figure appears alien like among the sharp contours of the Grande Arche.
The freestanding, transparent elevator shafts which also occupy the interior quad provides some of the most remarkable views of Paris. This shaft climbs to the uppermost level, establishing a datum that measures a thirty-five story structural phenomenon.
As the elevator ascends, the Historical Axis reveals itself in all its magnificence. The Grande Arche’s closest neighbor, The Arche de Triomphe is just 6 kilometers away.
The thirty-five story Grande Arche functions mainly as an office space, and contains an exhibition hall at its uppermost level. Below the Arche sits a shopping mall and cinema.
The Arche is a notable technological achievement and was aimed to “assert France’s central place in the world at the end of the 20th century.”