GUIDE DE LA DEFENSE

The Grande Arche, a monumental way to celebrate the French Revolution

After 20 years of discussion on how to end or carry on the perspective of the Champs-Elysées in La Défense, President François Mitterand launches a contest in 1981. A perfectly unknown Danish architect, Johann-Otto von Spreckelsen, is going to win, and shortly after the works of a monumental arch to commemorate the Bicentennial of the French Revolution start. It is a collection of symbols, trying to represent all of Paris in one building. Notre-Dame and its spire can fit inside, the width of the square is the same than the width of the Champs-Elysées, 110 meters. The passer-by is struck by the angle the Grande Arche creates with the perspective of the avenue; even that is a symbol: it is the exact same angle that one can find several miles down between the Champs-Elysées and the Louvre…

But the task is huge, and almost cursed. To built the mega-structure of 300 000 tons of cement, above 14 meters of foundations, requires the creations of new techniques. The works are often put to an halt, due to harsh discussions between the architects and the builders. In 1986, Spreckelsen decides to drop the case, and leave la Grande Arche to Paul Andreu, the architect of Charles de Gaulle airport. Spreckelsen dies the following year and will never see the wonderful grand opening of the building, for the celebrations of 1989.

Today la Grande Arche stands as a poetic symbole of a contemporary France. Covered with white Carrare marble, its giant fabric cloud floating in the Nanterre sky under its belvedere roof, it offers the perfect monument for a 400 year old avenue: It ads a point on it, echoing the Obelisque or the Arc de Triomphe, but keep the perspective opens to go all the way to Saint-Germain en Laye.

La Grande Arche is 15 minutes by foot from furnished studios / apartments of Home in La Défense