A sleek skyscraper—designed to cast a negligible shadow and rely on solar and wind energy—is about to change the face of Paris.
The genuises that built the “Bird’s Nest” Olympic stadium in Beijing are at it again. Swiss architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre De Meuron have laid out blueprints for yet another revolutionary structure, this time, to spruce up the Parisian skyline—and economy to boot.
Le Projet Triangle (Project Triangle) will tower 200 meters above Porte de Versailles in south-western Paris. The privately-funded development will be a stunning irregular stepped-pyramid of glass and steel. Unlike those occupied by Egyptian pharaohs, it is designed to have a slim profile similar to a shark’s fin.
Living in the City of Lights, Parisians revel and take pride in their illuminated night sky. During the day, they are equally keen on getting their sunlight. The strategically positioned skyscraper is supposed to cast very little shadow on lower, neighboring buildings.
The shark fin will be the first high-rise to be approved for construction in Paris since 1977 when then Paris mayor Jacques Chirac established a ban on buildings higher than 37 meters. The Paris Council wanted to maintain a low-rise “human scale” environment when building after building shot up the streets of Paris. The ban was instituted to highlight historic architectural masterpieces like the Eiffel Tower and the Notre Dame Cathedral.
More than being considerate of Parisians’ “right to light,” the building will be eco-friendly as well. Herzog and De Meuron intend for The Triangle to generate solar and wind energy.
Reach for the Sky
Late last year, Deputy Mayor Anne Hidalgo, revealed plans to build The Triangle, saying it would be the first of six other avant-garde skyscrapers to rise in the city.
Paris Council hopes the decision to scrap laws limiting new high-rise structures could help the city overtake London, Berlin, and Barcelona as Europe’s most vibrant metropolis.
Hidalgo said the city hopes the structure would “provide Paris a true symbol commensurate to its economic vitality.”
Aside from international competition, the French capital lifted the ban on high-rises to address the housing shortage.
But while a building frenzy could fuel the economy and house a growing population, it could also change the face of the city. And this does not sit well with those protective of the city’s architecture and history.
Oh La La or Oh No No?
While a slim pyramid is a modern civic planner’s dream come true, polls show 62% of Parisians think skyscrapers are nightmarish. A skyline of high-rise buildings is feared to figuratively overshadow the low-rise city landscape Paris is known for.
“It’s Paris, why gunk up the skyline?” commented an American netizen after reading about The Triangle in an architecture blog.
Perhaps Herzog and De Meuron’s reputation could sway Parisians to think otherwise—or at least appreciate the structure. In addition to building the world’s largest steel structure for the 2008 Summer Olympics, their portfolio includes the Portsmouth Soccer Stadium in England, de Young Museum in San Francisco, Prada Store in Tokyo, and Barcelona Forum Building. Their firm was awarded the Pritzker Prize, the highest honor in architecture, in 2001.
Shops and restaurants will line the ground level of The Triangle while offices, a conference center, and 400 hotel rooms occupy the other floors.
The shadowless skyscraper will be the third tallest in the inner city after the Eiffel Tower and Tour Montparnasse. (The Tour Montparnasse was deemed “monumentally out of place,” and was one of the reasons for the 1977 ban.)
By 2014—The Triangle’s target completion date— tourists and travelers raring to set foot on Paris could want to have their pictures taken next to more than just the Eiffel Tower. The Triangle, after all, could be the next tourist destination that would put Paris on the map of 21st century architectural sites.
Print ed: 03/09