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Environment / Climate change

The Parisians are having a massive row about whether to build a giant triangular skyscraper

Ah, Paris. The Eiffel Tower; the Champs d’Elysee; Notre-Dame; Sacre-Coeur; the giant glass monument to the wisdom of Pythagoras…

Okay, that last hasn’t put in an appearance as of yet, but if the mayor, Anne Hidalgo, gets her way it will. Tour Triangle (they thought long and hard about that name) is the work of Swiss architecture practice Herzog & de Meuron. It’ll be 180m tall and have 42 storeys, and, say developers Unibail-Rodamco, will cost around €500m to build.

And it will utterly dominate the Parisian skyline. Look:

Even from miles away:

(Off topic, but… what is it with the Swiss and triangles?)

Unfortunately, for fans of buildings that look like temples to long forgotten gods, it’s not clear that the Triangle will ever be built. It has the full support of Hidalgo and her socialist allies on the city council. But last week a vote saw the plan defeated by an unlikely alliance of conservatives and greens, who fear it’ll ruin Paris’ 19th century skyline.

That would normally be the end of the matter. But Hidalgo has found a procedural loophole which she claims made the vote null and void. So, we’ll see.

Paris has always had an uneasy relationship with skyscrapers. The Eiffel Tower may be the very symbol of the city now, but it was famously hated by Parisians at the time of its construction. The more recent Tour Montparnasse was similarly loathed, but has so far shown little sign of being rehabilitated. (That’s probably not surprising; it’s hideous.)

So far, in fact, there are remarkably few skyscrapers within the bounds of the city. The metropolis as a whole has 18 structures taller than 150m, but all but the two already discussed are in La Defense, the business district just beyond the city’s western perimeter.

Mayor Hidalgo argues that a string of new high rises will help bring life to a downtrodden area of the 13th arrondissement, bringing in both jobs and business taxes. Meanwhile the tower’s architect, Jacques Rougerie, warned: “We risk Paris becoming solely a city with a history – a museum piece with no outlook on the future”.

But opponents argue that the building would, quite literally, blot out the sun. And there are those, it seems, who are quite happy with the idea of Paris as a celebration of its own past. Olivier de Monicault, the president of SOS Paris, a pressure group which exists specifically to oppose stuff like this, told the New York Times that it would do untold damage to the look and feel of the city: “Tourists do not come here to see Manhattan”.
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