A new and modern business district of Paris - La Défense, takes its name from the monument placed in 1883 in this area, to commemorate the French soldiers who died in the war with Germany of 1870-1871.
An idea of building the new business center of Paris outside the city and therefor not to destroy already existing buildings and preserve Paris unique historical character, started in the 30-ties of the 20th century. Many plans come from known architects as Le Corbusier, but economical constraints in France of that time, and the following World War II, made its construction impossible. However, already at that time, it has been decided that the development will be build along the axe between the squares of L'Etoile and Concorde, alon the line created already by The Arch de Triomphe and Obélisque de Luxor in the Place de la Concorde.
In the 50-ties of the 20th century, French intellectualists with architects in that number were aware that modernity might destroy Paris. It is good to watch the movies of Jacques Tati as 'My uncle' or 'Playtime' to understand that mixture of fears of automatics from one side and Americanization traditional French way of life from the other.
The present development area of La Défense beyond the last curve of the river Seine to the West of Paris, mainly in the area of Puteaux, been chosen in 1951. In September 1958, a public society has been created to build the new district. There was a lot of society pressure to harmonize La Defense's plan with existing Paris urbanism. To calm the public fears it has been decided, that at the beginning the new skyscrapers will not be higher than 100 meters, while today there are 20 buildings above that height. It has been also reconfirmed that La Défense will respect the western perspective view towards Paris.
The first high building constructed was the Nobel building (Tour Nobel) completed in 1966 (now after the renovation in 1988 renamed to Tour Initiale – Initial Tower to memorize the beginnings of La Défense). It had exactly 100m of height. Ironically, its design required curved glass plates to cover the corners of the building, which in that time were not produced in France and had to be imported from the United States. Today the highest is Tour Total (1985), which has 187 m, and 48 floors. However, the Axa Tower, which is now 159m high, will be in the future redeveloped to the height of its sister building in New York of ca. 225 meters.
La Défense has been built on two levels – the top is the main plate level with all the high buildings and the Great Arc. Below there is a level of streets, metro, car parking lots and even the houses where people live as 20 000 people actually live in La Défense.
The Great Arc La Grande Arche Tower (110m) is a unique building central to La Defense. It has been built in a form of the arch along the axe with the Arch de Triomphe on the Etoile square and Concorde. It offers a unique view of Paris old and new.
For a photographer La Défense is an opportunity to catch the modernity in its abstract forms, with all its shinning surfaces and reflected light. Looking at these architectural shapes, we have to confront the genius of human activity, with all its creativity, exaggeration and mystery.