La Défense

La Défense (French: [la de.fɑ̃s]) is a major business district located three kilometres west of the city limits of Paris. It is part of the Paris metropolitan area in the Île-de-France region, located in the department of Hauts-de-Seine in the communes of Courbevoie, La Garenne-Colombes, Nanterre and Puteaux.

La Défense
La Défense seen from the Grande Arche
  Total1.6 km2 (0.6 sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+01:00

La Défense is Europe's largest purpose-built business district with 560 hectares (1,400 acres) of area, 72 glass and steel buildings (of which 19 are completed skyscrapers), 180,000 daily workers, and 3,500,000 square metres (38,000,000 sq ft) of office space.[1] Around its Grande Arche and esplanade ("le Parvis"), La Défense contains many of the Paris urban area's tallest high-rises. Les Quatre Temps, a large shopping mall in La Défense, has 220 stores, 48 restaurants and 24 movie theaters.[2]

The district is located at the westernmost extremity of the 10-kilometre-long (6.2 mi) Axe historique ("historical axis") of Paris, which starts at the Louvre in Central Paris and continues along the Champs-Élysées, well beyond the Arc de Triomphe along the Avenue de la Grande Armée before culminating at La Défense. The district is centred in an orbital motorway straddling the Hauts-de-Seine department communes of Courbevoie, La Garenne-Colombes, Nanterre and Puteaux. La Défense is primarily a business district and hosts a population of 25,000 permanent residents and 45,000 students.[1][3] La Défense is also visited by 8,000,000 tourists each year[1] and houses an open-air museum.[4]


La Défense is named after the statue La Défense de Paris by Louis-Ernest Barrias, which was erected in 1883 to commemorate the soldiers who had defended Paris during the Franco-Prussian War.

In September 1958, The Public Establishment for Installation of La Défense (EPAD) buildings (of which the Esso Tower was the very first) were built and began to slowly replace the city's factories, shanties, and even a few farms. The Center of New Industries and Technologies (CNIT) was built and first used in 1958. These "first generation" skyscrapers were all very similar in appearance, limited to a height of 100 metres (330 ft). In 1966, the Nobel Tower was the first office skyscraper built in the area. In 1970, the RER line A railway was opened from La Défense to Étoile.[5] In 1974, a contract for a Défense-Cergy high-speed hovercraft train was signed and soon abandoned.

In the early 1970s, in response to great demand, a second generation of buildings began to appear, but the economic crisis in 1973 nearly halted all construction in the area. A third generation of towers began to appear in the early 1980s. The biggest shopping centre in Europe (at the time), the Quatre Temps, was created in 1981. In 1982, the EPAD launched the Tête Défense competition to find a monument to complete the Axe historique, which eventually led to the construction of Grande Arche at the west end of the quarter. During the same period, hotels were constructed, the CNIT was restructured, and in 1992, Line 1 of the Paris Métro was extended to La Défense, which made the area readily accessible to even more of the city.

On Bastille Day 1990, French electronic composer Jean Michel Jarre staged an ambitious concert at the site, using the Grande Arche and three of the area's towers as projection screens, and building a pyramidal stage above the road. The free concert, titled simply Paris la Defense, attracted two million spectators, stretching all the way back to the Arc de Triomphe. This beat Jarre's own previous world record for the largest attendance for a musical concert. After Jean Michel Jarre, German DJ Sash! and the singer La Trec have set at La Défense the videoclip for their song Stay in 1997.

After a stagnation in new development in the mid-1990s, La Défense is once again expanding and is now the largest purpose-built business district in Europe.

Important corporations headquartered at La Défense include Neuf Cegetel, Société Générale, Total, Aventis, Areva, and Arcelor. The tallest skyscraper, the Tour First belongs to AXA, constructed in 1974. It is 231 metres (758 ft) high, has 50 floors, and is the highest inhabited building in the Paris area (a title previously held by the Tour Montparnasse, which was the tallest inhabited building until the Tour First was renovated between 2007 and 2011, bringing it to its current height from a previous 159 metres (522 ft); the tallest structure in Paris is the Eiffel Tower).

On 9 September 2008, La Défense celebrated its 50th anniversary with a huge fireworks display.[6]

In December 2005, Bernard Bled, CEO & Chairman of EPAD (La Defense Management & Development Office) announced an ambitious 9-year development plan called "La Defense 2006–2015".This important modernisation plan has to give a new dimension to the district and focuses on four main axes: regenerate outdated skyscrapers, allow new buildings, improve the balance between offices and residential housing and make the transport of local employees from their homes to La Défense easier. There are 3 aims: building 150,000 square metres (1,600,000 sq ft) of offices within demolition/rebuilding projects, building 300,000 square metres (3,200,000 sq ft) of offices within new projects, and building 100,000 square metres (1,100,000 sq ft) of housing.

The government confirmed in July 2006 this plan which has to be carried out around 2015. It is justified by the strong estate pressure, which plays in favour of building new skyscrapers near Paris. Those constructions have also the advantage to be more economical than little buildings. But it will have to overcome some difficulties: French economy faces a short-term slowdown; the government tries to balance tertiary sector employment in the whole region again, because La Défense today concentrates a major part of those jobs; and traffic is already saturated in the district, while it would need huge investments to extend transport infrastructures.

It launched high-profile international competitions and/or construction greenlight of several key 300-to-320-metre (980 to 1,050 ft) tall sustainable development-style skyscrapers such as Tour Signal, Tour Phare, Hermitage Plaza, and Tour Generali. During said December 2005 Press Conference, EPAD released to the public an elaborate 3D animation film titled "La Défense 2016".

Area specifications

  • Divided into 4 major sectors
  • 400 acres (1.6 km2)
  • 3,500,000 square metres (38,000,000 sq ft) of offices
  • 1,500 businesses
  • 180,000 employees
  • 20,000 residents
  • 210,000 square metres (2,300,000 sq ft) of shops (including the 140,000 square metres (1,500,000 sq ft) Quatre Temps Shopping Mall)
  • 2,600 hotel rooms
  • 310,000 square metres (3,300,000 sq ft) of flagstone and sidewalk
  • 110,000 square metres (1,200,000 sq ft) of greenery
  • 60 modern art sculptures and monuments

Open-air museum

Besides the representative architecture, the area also houses an open-air museum with 70 statues and pieces of modern art,[4] including the following works:

Tallest buildings

Completed highrise buildings above 90 m (295 ft) (1967–2014)

NameBuilt UseHeightLevelsMunicipality
Tour First (formerly tour AXA)1974/2011office23175852Courbevoie
Tour Majunga2014office19563647Puteaux
Tour Total (Coupole)1985office18761448Courbevoie
Tour Engie (T1)2008office18560737Courbevoie
Tour Areva1974office18460444Courbevoie
Tour Granite (Société Générale)2008office18360037Nanterre
Tour CB21 (formerly tour Gan)1974office17958742Courbevoie
Tour D22014office17156137Courbevoie
Tour Alicante (Société Générale)1995office16754837Nanterre
Tour Chassagne (Société Générale)1995office16754837Nanterre
Tour EDF2001office16554141Puteaux
Tour Carpe Diem2013office16253138Courbevoie
Cœur Défense2001office16152840Courbevoie
Tour Adria (Technip)2002office15550940Courbevoie
Tour Égée (Ernst&Young)1999office15550940Courbevoie
Tour Ariane1975office15249936Puteaux
Tour Dexia (CBX)2005office14246636Courbevoie
Tour Europlaza1995office13544331Courbevoie
Tour Défense 20001974residential13444047Puteaux
Tour Eqho (formerly tour Descartes)1988office13042740Courbevoie
Tour Les Poissons1970mixed129.542542Courbevoie
Tour France1973residential12641340Puteaux
Tour Franklin1972office12039433Puteaux
Tour Sequoia (Bull, Cegetel, SFR)1990office11939033Puteaux
Tour Winterthur1973office11939033Puteaux
Tour CGI (CB16)2003office11738432Courbevoie
Tour Neptune1972office11337128Courbevoie
Préfecture des Hauts-de-Seine1974office11337125Nanterre
Grande Arche1989monument, office11036137Puteaux
Tour Manhattan1975office11036132Courbevoie
Tour Aurore1970office11036129Courbevoie
Tour Eve1975mixed10935830Puteaux
Tour Initiale1967office10935830Puteaux
Tour Nuage 1, Tours Aillaud1976residential10534439Nanterre
Tour Nuage 2, Tours Aillaud1976residential10534439Nanterre
Tour Gambetta1975residential10434137Courbevoie
Tour Cèdre1998office10333826Courbevoie
Tour Opus 121973office10032827Puteaux
Tour Athéna1984office10032825Puteaux
Tour Europe1969office9932528Courbevoie
Tour AIG1967office9932527Courbevoie
Tour Prisma (Tour Kvaerner)1998office9731825Courbevoie
Tour Atlantique1970office9531227Puteaux
Tour Pascal1983office9531227Puteaux
Tour Pacific1992office9029525Puteaux

Upcoming highrise buildings (2016–2021)

NameUseHeightLevelsMunicipalityStatus Estimated Year of Completion
Hermitage Plaza IImix3231,06086CourbevoieConstruction start in 20192024
Hermitage Plaza Imix3231,06085CourbevoieConstruction start in 20192024
The Linkoffice24480152PuteauxConstruction start in 20192023
Tour Sister 1office22971855CourbevoieConstruction start in 20192022
Tour Heklaoffice22072251PuteauxUnder construction2022
Tour Jardins de l'Archeoffice & hotel21065654Nanterreapproved2022
Tour Saint-Gobainoffice17858439CourbevoieUnder construction2019
Tour Altooffice16049238CourbevoieUnder construction2020
Tour Trinityoffice15145932CourbevoieUnder construction2019
Tours Sister 2office13139626CourbevoieConstruction start in 20192022
Vinci Headquartersoffice10835424NanterreUnder construction2020
Rose de Cherbourg residencehousing7524620PuteauxUnder construction2018

Canceled projects

  1. Tour Sans Fins (1989): 425 m (1,394 ft)
  2. Tour Generali (2011): 319 m (1,047 ft)
  3. Tour Signal (2009): 301 m (988 ft)
  4. Tour Phare (2018): 296 m (971 ft)

See also


  1. "La Défense, Tout sur ce quartier d'exception". Ville de Courbevoie. Ce territoire stratégique pour l’économie nationale s’étend sur plus de 560 hectares. Chiffres clés: 180 0000 emplois, 25 000 habitants, 45 000 étudiants, Plus de 8 millions de touristes
  2. "La Défense near Paris. Shopping. Map". Paris Digest. 2018. Retrieved 19 October 2018.
  3. Fallon, Steve; Annabel Hart (2006). Paris. Footscray, Victoria: Lonely Planet. p. 155. ISBN 1-74059-849-0.
  4. La Défense > Artworks: Guide 2013. Leaflet published by Defacto, Établissement public de gestion du quartier d'affaires de la Défense.
  5. "Portrait of the RER A - RATP". Retrieved 31 January 2018.
  6. La Défense : 50 ans d’histoire 9 November 2008, Danielle Birck (in French)
  7. "La Défonce | Defacto - Quartier d'affaires de la Defense". Retrieved 20 February 2016.
  8. "Une oeuvre géante de Guillaume Bottazzi à La Défense | Defacto - Quartier d'affaires de la Defense". 30 September 2014. Retrieved 20 February 2016.

Further reading

  • Schaugg, Johannes: High-Rise Buildings – La Défense, Books on Demand 2009, ISBN 978-3-8391-4523-4

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