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La Défense


Design for a new retail street and hotel development in La Défense, Paris.

The  site  in  La  Défense,  like  the  wider  context  around  it,  still  embodies  potential  and  room  for  optimism,  after  decades,  and  many  layers  of  development. One cannot escape the feeling that in order to reach the site, one must walk through a slice of urban architecture that is yet to fulfil its promise. It is clear that this densely built environment does not require yet another tall  block,  but  rather  a  much  freer  approach:  a  ‘soft’  circulation  flow, with a legible sense of place, a focal point and a chance to introduce a proper garden park. Upon embarking on this project, we tried to treat the challenging canvas with a strategy and with components that seem to work and accommodate the environment happily. There are two principal elements to the scheme; one — a giant shell structure, encompassing a unique raised garden, and two — a stream of circulation and commercial activity beneath. Projects tend to acquire a nickname in the studio. This one we’ve called ‘Page One’, maybe because the shell is like a folded leaf of paper, maybe it’s because it’s the beginning of a change.