LA Study Tour with Jack
La Défense
Jillian Haswell


History of La Defense
In 1930, French authorities decided that France needed a new business district to allow the state and local communities to grow.  The new business district was titled La Defense, named after a statue built in 1883, which commemorated soldiers of the Franco-Prussian war. Because of the historical and timeless buildings of Paris, it was decided that this new, modern business district should be built outside of Paris, where modern skyscrapers would not ruin the view from the Etoile.   The economic crisis of Great Depression halted the plans for La Defense, and it wasn’t until September 9th, 1958 that the Public Establishment for Installation of La Defense (EPAD) was created.  The EPAD decided that La Defense would be located on axis with the Champs Elysee but further west, and across the river from Etoile. .  The plan for La Defense was for the area to be split into two levels.  The top level is the main level where all the buildings are located, as well as the Great Arc.  The lower level contains the streets, the metro, parking, and residential buildings.

La Defense
La Defense


Iconic Structures at La Defense
The Great Arc is a structure that is shaped like a hollow cube.  It mirrors the Arch de Triomphe along the same axe of the Triumphal Way.  The Great Arc is also aligned with the Champs-Elysees, the Place de la Concorde, and the Pei Pyramid.  President Mitterrand had the idea for the arch.  In 1989, he commissioned architect Otto von Spreckelsen to design his modern Arch de Triomphe.  The building is 106 meters wide.  The Great Arch was used for a concert location on Bastille Day in 1990.  Visitors are allowed access to the top of the Arch, and the center of Paris is visible from the top.


La Grande Arche
La Grande Arche


Buildings at La Defense
Although the district was to be built away from the more historical, picturesque part of the city, the EPAD restricted building height to 100 meters.  The first high rise building, the Nobel building is exactly 100 meters tall.  Another early tower was the Esso Tower.  The architects were Greber, Lathrop, and Douglas.  Esso tower was eleven floors high.  However, it was torn down during a renovation of La Defense, and the Coeur Defense tower replaces it today. Another early tower is the Center of New Technologies, which was built in 1958. 
La Defense is home to many corporations.  Some towers house the Societe Generale, the Avenic Corporation, the Areva Corporation, the Arcelor Corporation, the Cegetel Corporation, and the Total Corporation.  The Total Corporation is in the Total Tower, which was built in 1985.  This building is 187 meters tall, and had 48 floors.  La Defense has 35,000,000 square meters of offices, 1500 businesses, 150,000 employees, and 20,000 residents.  It also has an enormous mall, Le Quatre Temps.  La Defense is also home to 60 modern art sculptures and monuments.


Buildings at La Defense
Buildings at La Defense


Expansion Plan for La Defense
In 2010, the EPAD merged with the EPAS, or the Public Planning Seine-Arch group.  The plan is to expand the business district further to the west of La Defense.  This new group is now known as EPADSA, or the Public Institution Planning Defense of Seine-Arche.  Nicolas Sarkozy, Bernard Bled, and Dominque Perben are important members of this planning committee.  The revival plan is supposed to start up in 2015. It will provide new office buildings, and new residential housing.  Some other main objectives of the plan include renovation of outdated skyscrapers, a balance between office buildings and residential housing, and the division of La Defense into four main axes, mimicking the layout of other buildings along the triumphal way.  So far, twelve new or renovated buildings have been proposed to the committee. 
Three towers; the Tour General, the Tour Signal, and the Hermitage Plaza Tower have been designed by Sir Newman Foster.   The Tour Signal will be located at the West gate.  Its purpose is to open up La Defense to Puteaux.  Another building proposition is the Generali.  This building will be constructed for the Italian Insurance Company Assicurazioni Generali.  It will be located on the site of the old Iris building.  This building has been designed with a great emphasis on green architecture.  So far, designs include photovoltaic cells, and water collection units.


Expansion Plan
Expansion Plan


Critique of La Defense
La Defense has been called “France’s most ambitious property development since Napoleon III built Paris’s boulevards in the 19th century” by critic Helene Fouquet.  Many worry about the plans to expand La Defense in the near future.  Some worries are economical as the new plans for La Defense will cost around 265 billion U.S. Dollars, or about 177 billion Euros.  Recent conflict concerning La Defense however is primarily political.  Many believe that the election of Nicolas Sarkozy to the EPADSA will make an impact on the French people because they claim Sarkozy only wants power.  Patrick Jarry who ran against Sarkozy for the leadership of the EPADSA claims, “the job isn’t just about money.  It’s about influence, power,” and he also claims Sarkozy plans “to become the heart of France and his fiefdom.”  Le Monde newspaper also states that Sarkozy actions are the “act of a monarch.”  However, Sarkozy will need to be elected by the EPADSA, so his representatives assure the public his election “will be based on merit.”


Gare De La Defense
Gare de la Defense


Visiting La Defense

Visiting La Defense is easy.  La Defense has its very own train station, which is part of the Metro system in Paris.  The station is located underneath the Grande Arche.  It connects the RER line A to the Metro Line 1 station La Defense- Grande Arche, as well as the T2 tramway, the SNCF-La Defense train station, and it is connected to Tram Line 2. 


List of References

Defense.92-fr. "Paris Tour Genrali." Google. Defense.92-fr, July 2006. Web. 15 Apr. 2010. <>

Fallon, Steve; Annabel Hart (2006). Paris. Footscray, Victoria: Lonely Planet. p. 155.  ISBN 1740598490.

Fouquet, Helene. "Sarkozy Clan Seeks to Tighten Grip on Paris Skyline Development." 22 Oct. 2009. Web. 22 Apr. 2010.  <>.

Greenski. "Gare De La Defense.jpg." Creative Commons, 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 22 Apr. 2010. < _Gare_de_la_Defense.jpg>.

Reitzel, Eric: Le Cube Ouvert-Structures and Foundations International conference on tall  buildings. Singapore, 1984.

Schaugg, Johannes: High-Rise Buildings - La Défense, Books on Demand, 2009

Unlisted. "La Grande Arche." Rw-steden. Unlisted. Web. 22 Apr. 2010. < d=zfDlQIL4yCVjbM:&tbnh=100&tbnw=150&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dla%2Bgrande%2 Barche&usg=____GLO4NK5STWN0Ma3S0FqKVQ7HM=&ei=Rf7uS_LYMcL7lwfR1 Ki1CA&sa=X&oi=image_result&resnum=3&ct=image&ved=0CB0Q9QEwA>.