Tour Signal to Enhance Paris Skyline

Torre Agbar Barcelona

At Scotsman.com, Susan Bell takes a look at the outcome of the competition for the design of a very tall building in Paris, which has made a massive amount of news. (A splendid collection of pictures resides at the Architecture Lab website.) Bell mentions how inimical the Parisians find the whole notion of skyscrapers in general, having gone so far as to ban them after the Tour Montparnesse was built in the Seventies, and gives us a slice of French humor:

Ironically, for a building which is so disliked, the Tour Montparnasse is now home to the French association of architects. Parisians joke that the best view of their city is to be had from its upper levels, principally because the building itself is no longer visible.

Who would have guessed that one new building in one city would create so much interest worldwide? Part of the reason is that the planned Tour Signal (or Signal Tower) will be only slightly shorter than the super-iconic Eiffel Tower. Mostly, this proposed landmark is newsworthy because the architect is Jean Nouvel, recent winner of the very prestigious and coveted Pritzker Architecture Prize.

His design for the Paris business district triumphed over four other world-class contenders. His firm, Ateliers Jean Nouvel, maintains offices in Spain, Italy, Denmark, Britain and the U.S., and has over 200 completed projects to its credit, with more than 40 ongoing projects spread throughout the globe, in 13 different countries. One of Nouvel’s completed projects, Torre Agbar in Barcelona, is pictured above.

The Tour Signal will grace the La Defense district of Paris, and comprise 71 stories, including offices, a hotel, apartments, and retail space for restaurants and shops. The plan includes four levels, each built around an atrium. Surrounded by parkland, it will be one of the showpieces of French President Sarkozy’s master plan for the renovation of the district. The exterior will present colorful displays, about which there doesn’t seem to currently be much information available. It is also said to be sustainability-conscious, but not much is presently known about that aspect, either.

Paris is not the only city with a Nouvel high-rise in the works. In New York, plans are afoot for a 75-story condominium tower next to the Museum of Modern Art. Like every other such suggested building, this one is controversial. Some people hate the eccentrically-formed structure with its diagonal strips reminiscent of a timbered English cottage, but it has passed through the approval process of New York’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, so the prospects are good.

New York is also home to another Nouvel building described as “spectacular,” at West 19th Street and West Side Highway. Minneapolis seems to be crazy about its Guthrie Theater complex, now two years old. Like many of Nouvel’s designs, this one employs color and light in ways not often seen in architectural exteriors.

In Switzerland, the Lucerne Cultural and Conference Center features an extending roof that reflects the dance of light on the lake’s surface, lending an ethereal, not-quite-solid appearance to the flat extension.

Paris is also home to the stunningly original Institut du Monde Arabe, a Nouvel creation finished in the late 1980s. Other projects are currently underway in Morocco and many other locales. But it doesn’t stop there – Nouvel is the creator of a distinctive bottle for a Yves Saint Laurent men’s cologne.

SOURCE: ” Ambitious design to rival Eiffel for Parisian skyline ” 05/28/08
photo courtesy of PixelManiatiK , used under this Creative Commons license

1 Response to “Tour Signal to Enhance Paris Skyline”

  1. 1 Ray
    June 8, 2008 at 7:24 pm

    You know you’ve made it big in architecture when you’ve won the Pritzker Prize and you’ve got a cologne bottle to your credit. I.M. Pei — eat your heart out.

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