La Grande Arche de la Défense

La Grande Arche de la Défense – © David H. Enzel, 2024

La Grande Arche de la Défense (“The Great Arch of the Defense”), originally called 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. It is usually known as the Arche de la Défense or simply as La Grande Arche. A 110-meter-high (360 ft) cube, La Grande Arche is part of the perspective from the Louvre to Arc de Triomphe, and was one of the Grands Projets of François Mitterrand. The distance from La Grande Arche to Arc de Triomphe is 4 km (2.5 miles).

A national design competition was launched in 1982 at the initiative of French president François Mitterrand. Danish architect Johan Otto von Spreckelsen (1929–1987) and Danish engineer Erik Reitzel (1941–2012) designed the winning entry to be a late-20th-century version of the Arc de Triomphe: a monument to humanity and humanitarian ideals rather than military victories.

Construction of the monument began in 1985, with most of the work being carried out by French civil engineering company Bouygues. Spreckelsen resigned in July 1986 and ratified the transfer of all his architectural responsibilities to his associate, French architect Paul Andreu (1938-2018). Andreu also was in charge of planning and constructing Charles de Gaulle Airport (Roissy) in Paris from 1967 on. Reitzel continued his work until the monument was completed in 1989.

The Grande Arche is in the approximate shape of a cube with a width, height, and depth of 110 m (360 ft); 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 is covered in Bethel Granite.

La Grande Arche was inaugurated in July 1989, with grand military parades that marked the bicentennial of the French Revolution.

This video, narrated in French, shows the immense size of this construction project.


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