Saturday, July 4, 2015

What Washington can learn from a tower in Paris

Independence Day seems to be a good day to look to France, Paris in particular, a city in which the Bastille is a tall building and in which no high rise has been constructed since the 1970s Tour de Montparnasse at the station with the same name.  This the French capital has in common with our own Washington DC where not much tall stuff will block the view of today's fireworks on the Mall.

But things can change quickly. According to Baunetz, a German architecture news network, and Deezen, an online design magazine, the socialist mayor of Paris announced approval of a 2008 Herzog de Meuron triangular mixed use tower in the entirely low rise 15th Arondissement. The vote on the matter in the city council was tight with 84 for to 74 against

According to Deezen Tour Triangle, a piece of architecture shaped like a piece of Toblerone chocolate, will become the city's third tallest building after the 324-metre Eiffel Tower and the 209-meter Montparnasse Tower – the last building over 100 meters to be built in the French capital.

 In fact, Parisiens were so protective of their historic low "skyline" that they, like Washington DC, created a special "zoo" for all the modern tall office skyscrapers and named it La Defense. (the DC equivalent would be Pentagon City and Arlington).

Developed in cooperation with real estate giant Unibail-Rodamco, the 500 million Euro skyscraper is designed to include a 120-room hotel, co-working office space and cultural facilities. 

Washingtonians, most of them strongly in favor of their strict height limits should keep an eye on Paris. Discussions on relaxing DC's height limits are already in high gear.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

Deezen link:

Le Parisien
CityLab Article from 7/7/15

Kriston Capps at City Lab concludes a critical article on CityLab in such a memorable but
appropriate way that I want to add it here as a postscript:

Instead of pretending that Paris won’t notice a new skyscraper, the Triangle’s backers might appeal to beauty. (An argument that Herzog & de Meuron, or rather their clients, appear reluctant to make.) What developers and politiciansmust do is convince voters that the changes brought on by building for density outweigh the changes brought on by freezing the city in time—economic stagnation, unaffordable housing, and income inequality.
Don’t call the Triangle invisible. Call it what it is: an alternative.

All images Herzog de Meuron, Basel

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