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Thread: Paris Eyes Skyscrapers to Beat Housing Crisis

  1. #1

    Default Paris Eyes Skyscrapers to Beat Housing Crisis

    Paris Eyes Skyscrapers to Beat Housing Crisis

    Mon Nov 3, 10:17 AM ET

    PARIS (Reuters) - In a move some fear will ruin the skyline of a city which prides itself on its beauty, Paris City Hall says it may turn to skyscrapers to solve the French capital's chronic housing shortage.

    A 30-year-old ban on high-rise construction has left Paris with a city center that is strikingly uncluttered compared to those of New York or London, where historic monuments jostle for space with modern tower blocks.

    But with more people reported to be sleeping on the streets of Paris because of huge waiting lists for social housing, Socialist Mayor Bertrand Delanoe is under pressure to meet an election promise of providing 50,000 new homes.

    "We are not talking about creating a Manhattan in Paris," Delanoe's deputy Jean-Pierre Caffet told Le Parisien daily on Sunday. "On the other hand, our city cannot become a museum-city."

    Caffet promised the historic center around the River Seine -- including Notre-Dame cathedral and the Louvre museum -- would be spared any new high-rise building, but said such projects would be viable in the surrounding areas where old and new already mix.

  2. #2


    As long as they build on the outskirts it won't be bad. Anyways, why not just build residentials around La Defense, where they already have a large cluster of towers. Plus it could add some 24 hour life to that area which is mostly offices. (I think?)

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2003


    If more high rises will be built in the city center, I think it will ruin the city's charm and beauty. Unless the new high-rises will have a Parisian style architecture just like the Paris hotel in Las Vegas.

    I think that if new high-rises will be built in the city center, it would be better if they were built near Tour Montpanasse or the high rise hotels near the Eiffel Tower.

    But isn't the suberbs around Paris huge? Building more new towns would be a good area. Most of the areas in the outskirts of Paris are already high rise flats of housing estates.

    Anyway, I wanna hear Fabb's opinion to this topic!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2003


    If more high rises will be built in the city center, I think it will ruin the city's charm and beauty. Unless the new high-rises will have a Parisian style architecture just like the Paris hotel in Las Vegas.

    I think that if new high-rises will be built in the city center, it would be better if they were built near Tour Montpanasse or the high rise hotels near the Eiffel Tower.

    But isn't the suberbs around Paris huge? Building more new towns would be a good area. Most of the areas in the outskirts of Paris are already high rise flats of housing estates.

    Anyway, I wanna hear Fabb's opinion to this topic!

  5. #5


    The Guardian

    Low-rise Paris set to scrape the sky

    Housing crisis forces rethink of 30-year ban on tall buildings

    Jon Henley in Paris

    Monday November 3, 2003

    Desperately short of space for new housing and offices, the city that boasts one of the world's most unspoiled skylines is considering lifting a 30-year-old ban on skyscrapers.

    Paris, which outlawed buildings of more than about eight storeys in the city centre in 1974, is strikingly uncluttered with high-rise towers. But its restricted surface area of 40 square miles - combined with an optimistic election pledge by the Socialist mayor, Bertrand Delanoe, to provide 50,000 new homes - means that the mayor may be forced to build up, rather than out, to meet the city's needs.

    "The historic centre won't be affected, nor will there be a forest of high-rises anywhere," the deputy mayor in charge of town planning, Jean-Pierre Caffet, said yesterday. "We're not talking about creating Manhattan in Paris. But on the other hand, the city cannot become a museum-city."

    In an interview with the Le Parisien daily, Mr Caffet said the city hall would prefer individual "sympathetically designed" high-rises in a few "carefully chosen" locations, to a concentration of further towers in the relatively rare areas where they already exist.

    None of Paris's classical Haussman neighbourhoods would be touched. "But on the other hand, we do not want to rule out all diversification, all modernity, all modification of the urban landscape," Mr Caffet said. "In my view, what is important is not so much the dogma about the number of storeys, but the where, the why and the how."

    Paris's overall area was "tiny for a major city", he said.

    The ban on skyscrapers was imposed under pressure from President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing after a number of monumental (and monumentally out-of-place) constructions, such as the 209-metre Montparnasse tower, completed in 1972. Under the ban, which has largely been respected, buildings were limited to a height of 31 metres within the city limits and 25 in the historic centre.

    Mr Caffet stressed that no firm decisions had been made - the real debate would have to await a new urban planning bill, due to come into force next year. But the Green party and the capital's opposition conservatives are already up in arms. The former mayor, Jean Tiberi, declared himself "stupefied" by the plans, and the Greens' leader, Alain Riou, said they were "an invitation to battle".

    The deputy mayor promised there would be no "nightmare vision". City landmarks and national treasures, such as the Louvre and the Notre Dame cathedral, would not in the near future be overshadowed by glass and concrete monstrosities. "We're thinking more about the outer arrondissements, in areas where there's already a considerable mix of architectural styles and periods," he said.

    "We will retain strict aesthetic control. We have no intention of simply handing a site over to a property developer and saying, 'Go for it'."

    There have been rows about the skyline in the past. Before the opening of the 324 metre-high Eiffel Tower in 1889, the author Guy de Maupassant mounted a petition against "an odious tower of extreme bad taste". He subsequently lunched there as often as he could, saying the restaurant was the only place from which the tower could not be seen.

  6. #6


    January 12, 2004 | Vol. 163 No. 2

    The Sky's The Limit

    Parisians have always been fiercely protective of their skyline, but Socialist mayor Bertrand Delanoë thinks a few skyscrapers would help create jobs and improve the city's stature. Is bigger really better?


    Whatever Ernest Hemingway may have written, Paris is in fact an immovable feast — at least when it comes to the height of its buildings. The city still proudly retains its 19th century skyline, from the Arc de Triomphe and Sacré Coeur to that most universally recognized of structures, the Eiffel Tower. Central Paris has no high-rises and most of the residential neighborhoods mirror the human scale of the Seine, which lacks the brawn of the Thames or the Rhine. This is no accident. The French capital is still largely drawn along the imperial lines laid down by Parisian prefect Georges-Eugène Haussmann, who had very clear ideas of just what a Parisian building ought to look like.

    Now that classic picture is being challenged by Haussmann's 21st century successor, Socialist Mayor Bertrand Delanoë. He believes that Paris, one of the most densely populated major cities in Europe, just might need skyscrapers. In recent months he has deliberately kindled a debate about lifting rules in place since the 1970s that limit the height of new buildings to 37 m — and as little as 18 m in some central neighborhoods. The restrictions rankle a mayor keen to nudge Paris into modernity. "Under current laws, if Frank Gehry wanted to build his Guggenheim Museum here in Paris instead of Bilbao, he wouldn't be allowed," Delanoë said at a recent public meeting in a gymnasium on the northern reaches of Paris. "Do we want a city that's immobile, conservative, one that excludes hundreds of thousands of people? That's not my model!" That's not Gehry's model either. "Paris is a magnificent 19th century city," Gehry told TIME, "but you need interventions if a city is to stay alive."

    Delanoë aims to pack a lot into the 105 sq km of Paris proper. He campaigned in 2001 on a promise to provide an additional 3,500 social-housing units a year. He wants more jobs in Paris, where the unemployment rate is over 10%. He wants more bike trails, more green space, more child-care facilities. If in the process he can get a signature building or two — a Gehry, or a Norman Foster like London's Swiss Re tower — so much the better. But it won't happen soon. "Now we're taking care of the garden, preparing the earth," says Dominique Alba, director general of Le Pavillon de l'Arsenal, the city's architectural center, and a close adviser to Delanoë. "Later we can do the gastronomy."

    Some people don't like the menu. No surprise there: Parisians have always been ferociously protective of their skyline. In 1887, writers Alexandre Dumas fils and Guy de Maupassant were among the artists to protest the construction of "a gigantic black factory chimney" now known as the Eiffel Tower. After losing that battle, Maupassant favored the restaurant at the base — it was the only place where the tower didn't mar his view.

    Parisians eventually grew to love that monument, but they've never accepted many of the tall buildings that went up in the 1970s. Even after 30 years, the tower of Maine-Montparnasse, a 209-m monstrosity jutting out of a decrepit esplanade atop the Montparnasse train station on the Left Bank, has few friends. And in the 19th arrondissement, a working-class district in the east of the city, a forest of high-rise apartment blocks has made a cruel joke of the Place des Fêtes, a "festival square" where an infernal wind whips across an artless expanse of concrete. More of that? No thanks, say many Parisians. "Do we really have to leap into an infantile contest of verticality with other world cities to see who has the most beautiful and biggest?" asks Jean-François Blet, a Green member of the city council. "The tower is the symbol of the international banalization of the urban landscape, liberal globalization applied to architecture."

    The memory of so many bad buildings has made a lot of Parisians almost pathologically opposed to more. "The very idea of building in Paris is seen as wrong and condemnable," sighs Paris architect Bernard Reichen. After the Tour Montparnasse went up, mayor Jacques Chirac and his conservative successor Jean Tiberi figured they had rightly read the public will by keeping a strict limit on building heights.

    As Blet and other opponents of towers point out, the height restrictions haven't cut Paris off entirely from architectural innovation: consider Jean Nouvel's glass-walled Institut du Monde Arabe (1988) along the Seine and I.M. Pei's pyramid at the Louvre (1989). "Nothing is stopping them from making nice things," insists Fabrice Piault, head of an activist neighborhood organization in the 13th arrondissement, where office buildings are filling in the space around the four 79-m towers of the François Mitterrand Library (1995) — a prestige project for which height restrictions didn't apply.

    There's a certain degree of irony in the fact that the proposal to raise the roofs of Paris comes not from greedy developers, but from the first leftist mayor Paris has had since the commune of 1871. A Socialist but no ideologue, Delanoë has appealed to the so-called Bobo set — the "bourgeois bohemians" — by promoting bicycles and buses, installing a sandy beach along the Seine in the summer and promising a more approachable and responsible city administration. He has become one of France's most popular Socialist office holders, and controls both the city and the local party with a self-confidence and ambition few predicted just a few years ago.

    Delanoë argues that any change to the building code would be dictated by real need and executed with great care. He is motivated not by profits, but in part by the demand for housing: the waiting list for social housing in the city stands at 100,000 families and counting. But mayoral aides suggest that towers are more likely to serve as commercial office space or as housing developments that will attract the young middle class, who now have to go to the suburbs to find affordable places to live.

    In addition, Delanoë hopes that the easing of restrictions will give a boost to business in the city. Paris lost some 200,000 jobs over the 1990s, mostly to complexes around the periphery such as La Défense to the west. Recently, bank Crédit Foncier de France and insurance giants Aviva and Generali have moved operations — and jobs — from central Paris to the suburbs.

    Big projects won't happen in the historic heart of Paris, but rather at the edges: the old industrial quarter along the Seine in the 13th is already under development, and other sites along railroad concentrations in the north and northeast of Paris would be prime candidates. Some architects have argued that well-planned high-rises can help reconnect Paris to its suburbs, now cut off by the belt highway around the city proper.

    "Of course Parisians say they're against new tall buildings when the question is posed in the abstract," says Jean-Pierre Caffet, the deputy mayor for urban development. But he hopes that minds will change when specific, high-quality projects are presented in the months to come. There are signs they would. Françoise de Panafieu, the fiery mayor of the upscale 17th arrondissement and an unyielding Delanoë critic, says she's always thought that a nice big building in her neighborhood could enliven the grim ride from the airport into the city. "We're not going to take just any tower," says Panafieu. "We need one like a jewel." That's what everyone says, of course. But Paris, where tall buildings have too often been carbuncles, deserves nothing less.,00.html

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