After more than a decade of financing snags, legal scuffles, and more than a soupçon of backlash, initial work on the Herzog & de Meuron-designed Tour Triangle (Triangle Tower) is set to commence by the end of this year at a site near Parc des Expositions de Porte de Versailles in the 15th arrondissement of Paris. However, last-ditch efforts to block the project are underway.
While not exceedingly colossal at just shy of 600 feet, the 42-story pyramidal glass skyscraper is tall for Paris and would be the first high-rise tower to be constructed within the boundaries of Boulevard Périphérique, the ring road that encircles central Paris, since Tour Montparnasse. Also located within the 15th arrondissement in the southwest of the city, Tour Montparnasse was similarly met with widespread derision when completed in 1973 for being completely out of scale with the rest of the city and remains an object of scorn to this day. (Meanwhile, modern skyscrapers abound in La Défense, a sprawling, purpose-built business district located just outside of Paris city limits.)
In 2019, Tour Triangle’s developer, Unibail-Rodamco, scored a major victory when an administrative court upheld the lawfulness of a building permit first issued in April 2015, rejecting two appeals that had been filed against the nearly $800 million project. Now, the highly contentious vertical development, which is set to include offices, a luxury hotel, retail, and conference center, has finally secured financial backing from insurance giant AXA and can move forward. It’s worth noting that Tour Triangle, which would also include childcare and health/wellness facilities along with a cultural center, isn’t set to be completed until 2026—that’s two years after the Paris-hosted Summer Olympic games. The original project timeline had it opening well ahead of the 2024 Summer Olympics as Expo Porte de Versailles, the largest exhibition center in Paris, is serving as a venue for the games.
“We designed Triangle for Paris and Parisians,” said Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron in a joint statement. “What we want to achieve most with this building is that it should be open to everyone and include the entire community.”
While Tour Triangle’s height—when completed it would rise as the third tallest building within Paris city limits behind the 690-foot-tall Tour Montparnasse and 1,063-foot-tall Eiffel Tower—has been at the center of the controversy, its trapezoidal form has also garnered unfavorable reactions. Agence France-Presse noted that while comparisons to I.M. Pei’s Louvre Pyramid are inevitable, the planned tower’s semblance to “a giant elongated wedge of Toblerone chocolate” might be more appropriate.
Speaking to The Telegraph, a British daily newspaper that by now is an old hat at covering skyscrapers that faintly resemble food, Paris-based art historian Didier Rykner likened Tour Triangle not to chocolate, but to cheese:
“It’s like a big piece of brie in the sky that can be seen from everywhere … and that’s a problem,” he explained. “I prefer the real cheese.”
Meanwhile, the city’s left-leaning political factions have been left unusually divided on the project. While the Green Party has rallied against Tour Triangle and preemptively declared it as an “ecological aberration,” Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo’s center-left Socialist Party (PS) has avoided taking such a hardline stance and is largely supportive, noting that it will “be an asset for the economic development and influence of the capital” and generate “more than 5,000 jobs during its construction” per The Telegraph.
On the opposing side, Christine Nedelec, the president of the campaign group SOS Paris, explained to The Telegraph that Tour Triangle has “been a scandal from the beginning” and that constructing the building would be an “an economical and ecological disaster.”
SOS Paris pointed out that building the tower would require the use of three to four times more concrete and steel than a typical new Parisian building and that its irregular shape would significantly increase its energy consumption. “It’s like a boiler that needs to be on full blast at all times,” said Nedelec.
While opponents have been quick to label Tour Triangle as an environmental nightmare, its developers have touted its green bona fides, noting in a press statement that the tower will “incorporate the highest environmental construction standards targeting HQE Exceptional and BREEAM minimum Excellent certifications while offering best in class conventional energy consumption and a carbon emissions trajectory in line with the Paris climate agreement objectives.”
As for the final efforts to slow or altogether block Tour Triangle from moving forward, the Green Party is hoping that the results of a preliminary criminal investigation into allegations of favoritism by Hidalgo’s office toward Viparis, the company that manages the expo site at the Porte de Versailles, will put an end to Tour Triangle once and for all.
In a separate move aiming to at least temporarily kneecap the development, Philippe Goujon, the conservative mayor of the 15th arrondissement, recently announced his plans to present a formal request for the project’s postponement at the next convening of the Council of Paris from November 16–19. Per local media reports, Goujon, who has long been opposed to the project, has said that “the arguments put forward in 2008 to justify the construction” of Tour Triangle by former Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoë are now “obsolete” and that the development “no longer meets the needs of companies that the Covid-19 crisis and the development of teleworking are leading to rethink.”
This article was originally published in The Architect's Newspaper.