Nouvel takes pole position in Paris

Niki May Young
Monday 02 Jun 2008

Jean Nouvel’s tower wins bid to become Paris’ new landmark skyscraper at La Défense

Jean Nouvel’s design for the Tour Signal has won a battle of the titans with Jacques Ferrier Architectures, Foster & Partners, Studio Libeskind Architect and Wilmotte et Associès SA after being chosen by the EPAD (the public body for the development of La Défense) for the La Défense build. The project’s environmental sustainability choices and mixed uses having favorably influenced the jury.

Seconds before unveiling the winner Patrick Devedjian, president of EPAD, stressed that the Tour Signal is the most important act of architecture since the Eiffel Tower. The 50 years old business district of La Défense is undergoing a radical regeneration development and the Tour Signal has become the symbol of this revitalization process. Twelve more cutting edge high rise buildings are currently being planned in the area.

The Tour Signal will become France’s first ever mixed use tower as it will house apartments, offices, a hotel, retail outlets, cultural and public facilities and a panorama terrace with garden. The French architect Nouvel highlighted diversity as a key element in his new creation: “At the core there is the desire to express the fact that La Défense will become a much livelier and diversified district and not solely a business area like it is perceived to be at the moment.”

The building will rise 71 storeys reaching 301 m high (988 ft) and will potentially become Paris’ second tallest building, with the Eiffel Tower on pole position at 324m. Nouvel sees his Tour Signal becoming a soothing element in the skyline of La Défense thanks to its federating role.

Nouvel’s skyscraper will cover an area of 140 000 m2 and will be made up of four blocks piled one on top of the other: retail outlets will occupy the foot of the tower and will be visible from the outside, offices will be in the 2nd block followed by a 333 roomed hotel and 90 large bright apartments built around an open sky patio. Parts of the façades will boast serigraphy patterns that will infuse the interior with a distinctive atmosphere.

The sections will feature atriums forming huge windows, each facing in alternate directions. These perspectives will reveal floor levels which will form balconies within each of the atriums and will allow daylight to shine through.

The French architect nicknames his project as the loggia tower: a tower where large hollow spaces and large covered terraces express the composite, multipurpose aspect of a living urban programme. In Nouvel’s words: “It is massive but open, restrained but bright and the grey tones of its steel curves are illuminated by the golden mirrors which reflect a warm light inside. The modern geometry of the Mandelbrot dragoons crosses the partitions of the loggias like filigree. These loggias open and close, they create a thermal balance through the managing of solar inputs. It is a typological archetype of sustainable architecture.” The exterior of the high-rise building will feature state of the art large screens which will reflect patterns inside the building.

As the EPAD competition did not dictate any given site for the Tour Signal, Jean Nouvel’s team chose the Porte Ouest/West Gate with the view to open up La Défense neighborhood to Puteaux, one of Europe ’s most populated municipalities.

For this venture, Ateliers Jean Nouvel have teamed up with Spanish investors Medea and developers Layetana Desarollos Immobiliarios. The project is estimated to cost €600 million and is scheduled to complete by Christmas 2013.

EPAD’s decision has since sparked criticism in particularly from the mayor of Puteaux Joëlle Ceccaldi who defined the new plans as: “A journey back to the middle ages of architecture: massive, gray and sad. A monolith that dominates everything. I ask Jean Nouvel to review his plans.” She also challenges the diversity of the structure as it lacks social housing.

Devedjian had anticipated that some of the submitted projects that were not selected for the Tour Signal would undoubtedly have a future within La Défense and this has already rung true: one day after the unveiling of the winner, Jacques Ferrier’s investor Hermitage have announced they will go ahead with the construction of their H Towers in Courbevoie, one of the municipalities bordering with La Défense. The joined towers are set to be 309m tall comprising of offices, a hotel and private and social housing. Work for the Hermitage Towers is due to commence in 2010 and complete in 2014.

Laura Salmi

Key Facts


Want to submit your project to World Architecture News?

Contact The Team
  • Town Planning Manager | Housebuilder in Surrey | 3+ years' PQE

    Are you a Town Planner with some commercial experience under your belt (consultancy or developer)? Would you like to work for a regional housebuild...
    • Lewis Davey
    • Surrey - near M25/M23 junction
  • Principal Planning Consultant (Policy)

    This is a career opportunity for somebody looking to play a key role in the delivery of an effective and efficient planning policy service.
    • Capita
    • Manchester/Salford (North West) or Breckland or North Tyneside or Barnet (North London)
  • Senior Planning Officer

    A vacancy has arisen in the Development Management Section of the Planning Services Division for a part-time Senior Planning Officer.
    • South Derbyshire District Council
    • Derbyshire
  • Planning Officers

    Work as key members of the Councils development management service providing pre-application advice, dealing with applications and appeals.
    • Chiltern and South Bucks Council
    • Amersham, Buckinghamshire
  • Enforcement Officer - Hertfordshire

    A Local Authority in Hertfordshire are looking for an Enforcement Officer to assist them with a backlog of cases for an initial contract of 3-6 months
    • Oyster Partnership
    • Hertfordshire