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The Grande Arche in Paris France

Grande Arche de la Fraternite

The Grande Arche de la Fraternite, is a monument in the business district of La Defense to the West of Paris and is usually known as the Arche de la Defense or just simply as La Grande Arche.

French president Francois Mitterrand launched an international design competition and it was the Danish architect Johann Otto von Spreckelsen who designed the winning entry.

The Grande Arche

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The Grande Arche in Paris France

The design was to be a 20th century version of the Arc de Triomphe, but as a monument to humanity and humanitarian ideals instead of a monument dedicated to military victories.

Construction of The Grande Arche began in 1982, but after Johann Otto von Spreckelsen's death in 1987, his associate, French architect Paul Andreu, completed the work in 1990.

The Grande Arche is almost a perfect cube and it has been suggested that the structure looks like a four dimensional hypercube projected onto the three dimensional world! 

The width of the monument is 108m, its height is 110m and the depth is 112m.  The Grande Arche has a pre stressed concrete frame covered with glass and Carrara marble from Italy, and was built by the French civil engineering company Bouygues.

The nearly completed Grande Arche was inaugurated in July 1989, with grand military parades that marked the bicentenary of the French revolution and it completed the line of monuments that forms the Axe Historique (historical axis) running through Paris.

However, The Grande Arche is turned at an angle of 6.33 on this axis, which is a peculiarity that has been explained by several theories.  In particular, the architect is said to have wanted to emphasise the depth of the monument, while the specific angle was chosen to create symmetry with the Louvre at the other end of the Axe.

But it seems the most important reason was purely technical.  With a metro station, an RER station, and a motorway all situated directly underneath the Grande Arche, to accommodate the structure's giant foundations, it had to be put at an angle.

In addition, the Arche is placed so that it forms a secondary axis with the two highest buildings in Paris, the Eiffel Tower and the Tour Montparnasse.

The two sides of the Arche house government offices and the roof section, exploited by Stephane Cherki, is an exhibition centre.

Visitors will have impressive views of Paris, when taking the lifts to the roof.

He must be mad, but in 1999, a French urban climber named Alain Robert scaled the structure's exterior wall using only his bare hands and feet and with no safety devices of any kind!




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