La Grande Arche de la Défense ; also La Grande Arche de la Fraternité) is a monument and building in the business district of La Défense and in the commune of Puteaux, to the west of Paris, France. It is usually known as the Arche de la Défense or simply as La Grande Arche. The Grande Arche was inaugurated on July 14, 1989 in the year of the bicentenary of the French Revolution and on the occasion of the G7. It was initially called “La Grande Arche de la Fraternité” (The Great Arch of Fraternity). Its designer described it as a window onto the world. It is intended to function as a place where people with different backgrounds and cultures can meet and communicate. After the reopening of the Grande Arche, this original role has been updated and modernized to fit contemporary society.
Location -: La Défense, Paris, France
Architect -: Johan Otto von Spreckelsen from Denmark
Engineer -: Erik Reitzel
Construction Period -: 1986 to 1989
A great national design competition was launched in 1982 as the initiative of French president François Mitterrand. Danish architect Johann Otto von Spreckelsen (1929–1987) and Danish engineer Erik Reitzel designed the winning entry to be a 20th-century version of the Arc de Triomphe: a monument to humanity and humanitarian ideals rather than military victories. The construction of the monument began in 1985. Spreckelsen resigned on July 1986. In 1986, after various disputes, Spreckelsen abandoned the project. Spreckelsen’s initial plan, which had convinced the judges in 1983 because of its purity and perspective, underwent several modifications in the construction of the structure. However, it still has the same effect originally intended by the designer. Spreckelsen ratified the transfer of all his architectural responsibilities to his associate, French architect Paul Andreu. Reitzel continued his work until the monument was completed in 1989.
The Arche is in the approximate shape of a cube (width: 108m, height: 110m, depth: 112m); it has been suggested that the structure looks like a hypercube (a tesseract) projected onto the three-dimensional world. It has a prestressed concrete frame covered with glass and Carrara marble from Italy and was built by the French civil engineering company Bouygues.
The Grande Arche is constructed as a bridge elevated 110 meters in the air and supported by 12 pillars. It overlooks the plaza of La Défense and the surrounding districts of the city of Paris. 300,000 tons of materials were required to construct the monument (equivalent to 30 times the weight of the Eiffel Tower). Glass and granite were used for the façades and 125,000 000 cu.m. of concrete for the structure.
Today, the Grande Arche dominates the Paris skyline. Its covers a surface area of 1 hectare and it weighs over 30,000 tonnes.
La Grande Arche was inaugurated in July 1989, with grand military parades that marked the bicentennial of the French revolution. It completed the line of monuments that forms the Axe historique running through Paris. The Arche is turned at an angle of 6.33° on this axis. The most important reason for this turn was technical: With a métro station, an RER station, and a motorway all situated directly underneath the Arche, the angle was the only way to accommodate the structure’s giant foundations. From an architectural point of view, the turn emphasizes the depth of the monument, and is similar to the turn of the Louvre at the other end of the Axe historique.
In addition, the Arche is placed so that it forms a secondary axe (axis) with the two highest buildings in Paris, the Tour Eiffel and the Tour Montparnasse. The two sides of the Arche house government offices. The roof section was an exhibition centre, housing the Musée de l’Informatique (Computing Museum). The vertical structure visible in the photograph is the lift scaffolding. Views of Paris are to be had from the lifts taking visitors to the roof.
After a non-injury accident in the elevators in April 2010, the Department of Ecology, owner of the roof of the Grande Arche, decided to permanently close the computer museum, restaurant, and viewing deck. Access to the roof is still possible via the elevators in the north and south walls, but they are closed to the public.
In its 25-year lifespan it has not fared well: an elevator scare in 2010 forced the rooftop facilities to close, and the area around the North tower has been closed to the public due to the risk of falling marble tiles. Studies conducted between 2004 and 2010 concluded that one in six of the facade tiles had been severely damaged by rain.
The €200 million investment will focus on the arch’s Southern tower, where workers for the French ecology and housing ministries who occupy the space have complained of a lack of natural light and poor working conditions.