The French starchitect and winner of the 2008 Pritzker Prize Jean Nouvel has designed a 220-meter-high tower in Paris’ major business district, La Défense. The architect and owner of the French practice Ateliers Jean Nouvel has a thirty-year long relationship with the area of La Défense, that dates back to 1982 when he finished second in the competition for the Ark. Then in 1989 he designed Tour Sins Fins (Tower Without Ends), of height 425m that was abandoned for various reasons. In 2008, he tried again by designing Tour Signal, a mixed-use high-rise building that ended up being deserted because of the harsh economic crisis of that time.
The Hekla Tower, also known as Rose of Cherbourg, is close to the architect’s heart as he is confident that there will not be any complication this time. It will be made up of 47 floors and comprised of office space, private residential units, and student accommodation. The 80,000m² tower is going to alter the skyline of La Défense dramatically. The site will become an entirely new space like no other upon completion, and it will also offer the largest green area of the area, connecting the business district to the adjacent town of Puteaux.
The ambitious skyscraper’s exterior will be constructed based on a complex system of triangular panels placed at different angles that make up the facade and outer skin of it. This facade system gives the tower the look of a mineral that grew right out of earth’s core. The top-end of the tower is left open giving capacity to a roof garden partially shaded by the triangular panels that also provide space for natural tree growth.
Making a design come to life in the La Défense district is not an easy task. There is a high-demand of construction on the rapidly developed area that is considered by many as the future of Paris. The competitive environment makes it even harder as the approval board has to consider every aspect of the proposal with extreme care. They have to be assured that it falls within the all the major guidelines and most importantly that it will be a sustainable asset for the future of this area. The site of Hekla is a complex one as it is located adjacent to an abandoned and unattractive intersection in the Rose of Cherbourg zone of the district.
If all goes well, this tower will be completed in 2019 and will become France’s second highest building, following the highest Tour First of 231m also located in the La Défense district. We can clearly see the Jean Nouvel has used his ambitious visions once again, experimenting with volumetric forms and shapes, but he seems to be afraid of pushing to the extreme. I believe that he possesses a fear of failing and what he is trying to create here is something that is experimenting with the norms just enough to be accepted but not controversial. This tower is not similar to the architect’s aspiring 450m Tour Sans Fins, which was both loved and hated back in 1989 by the people of Paris. It will without a doubt stand emblematic in the business district and has the elements become a symbol for Paris’ future and an example to be followed. The renderings look polished and pleasant to the point that I am worried that the final image will not look exactly like this. I hope the cladding of the facades and the elaborate volumes remain as they look right now, as the impact of it will be great. We have to wait a few more years to find out if it continues as planned that it. Poor Jean Nouvel.
By: Andreas Leonidou