Recently we took the metro out to La Défense – Paris’ major business district.
As soon as we got out of the metro I overwhelmed by how modern everything was. It immediately felt as though we had left Paris and traveled to some futuristic city.
La Défense is filled with highrise buildings, glass, stainless steel, modern art sculptures and men in suits (possibly there were women too but I wasn’t really looking at them…). It’s clean, symmetrical (except when it’s being deliberately asymmetrical), and its modern Grande Arche lines up beautifully with the older Arc de Triumphe which you can see in the far distance.
In fact, La Défense is the exact opposite to central Paris.
Having grown up Sydney (and not really paid attention to city layouts during my younger-years travels) which is such a new city by European standards, I’ve grown accustomed to the business district being the central focus of the city. In Paris one of the first things I noticed was how flat the centre of the city was and the consistent style of beautiful old buildings. I noticed it lacked highrises and modern architecure (and liked that) and naively assumed it just didn’t go for that.
But then I go to La Défense and not only do I realise that’s where it all is, but I actually think Paris pulls of modern urban really well. Each building if you look at them carefully has some artistic effect to it and the use of space is very clever – you somehow feel like you’re surrounded by enormous buildings but yet you still have this calm feeling of space and peacefulness. Quite honestly, the photos don’t do this place justice.
In doing some reading on La Défense I read a comment that stuck with me (and yes I am paraphrasing wikipedia…).
“La Défense is a statement of corporate ambition but it does so without encroaching on this historical quarters of the city”.