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The Triangle Tower
Unibail-Rodamco
Just what Paris needs: office space.

Paris is really close to ruining its skyline—again

By Kabir Chibber

When you think of Paris, you do tend to think of 42-story glass pyramids, don’t you?

The French capital is seriously considering building “the Triangle Tower” in the 15th arrondissement, near Porte de Versailles, in a stunning bid to reverse years of anti-skyscraper rhetoric. The Socialist mayor, Anne Hidalgo, is arguing less for aesthetics and more for job creation—5,000 new construction jobs for a tower that would cost €500 million ($627 million).

Others don’t see it quite that way. The Paris Council voted against the tower—narrowly—by 83 to 78, uniting the opposition right-wing UMP in a rare and unusual coalition (link in French) with the Greens and communist Left Front. Unfortunately, the victors tweeted and boasted about the vote, like so:

Hidalgo complained that this was illegal as the vote was supposed to be secret (link in French) and said there will be a new vote. “Will we be the only country to reject a private investment of €500 million?” she asked. The tower is to be backed by the property developer Unibail-Rodamco and designed by Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, who famously turned a derelict London power station into one of the world’s foremost modern art museums. France’s greatest architect, Jean Nouvel, is a supporter, calling the Triangle Tower a “magnificent building” and remarking the French only want architecture they cannot see.

This isn’t the first time Paris has been through this. In 1973, Paris built the 59-story Montparnasse Tower, a nondescript, depressing building in the south of the city. The backlash was so pronounced and the result so awful that the city changed its zoning rules before it was even completed (paywall) to prevent more skyscrapers from being built, until this new Triangle Tower was proposed as a rare exception with the city’s backing. Skyscrapers are only permitted in an area to the west of Paris called La Defense. Parisians have a love/hate relationship with soaring buildings:

Perhaps what those who oppose the new tower fear is that the city will turn into its neighbor across the English Channel. In 2004, London added a new pickle-shaped skyscraper dubbed the Gherkin in its financial district. Now, there are all sorts of new buildings with funny names—the Cheesegrater, the Walkie-Talkie, not to mention The Shard, the tallest skyscraper in Europe. And there are many more to come.

According to one poll from last year (link in French), 56% of people disapprove of the construction of the Triangle Tower. Many Parisians are still struggling with the Eiffel Tower. The Triangle, if it is built, could turn out to be the first of many—the thin edge of the wedge, as it were.