My biggest current photographic project deals with La Défense.
Before telling you more about the project, here is some information on this biggest European Office conglomerate, for those of you who don’t know it:

A map of La Défense and a virtual visit: Map

There is a public agency looking after the planning and operations of the area: EPAD (Etablissement Public pour l’Aménagement de la région de la Défense)

The roots of La Défense go back to the time just after the Franco-German war of 1870/71: A monument by Louis Ernest Barrias, “La Défense de Paris”, was erected in 1883, commemorating the heroic defence of their capital by the Parisians during this war.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the idea of an extension of the grand axis from the Louvre, via the Arc de Triomphe, as far as Saint-Germain-en-Laye, “une voie triomphale”, sparked off the most incredible projects, none of which was ever realised.

Plans started to become "concrete" in the 1950s with the construction of the CNIT (Centre des Nouvelles Industries et Technologies). Since then, several successive “waves” of construction have shaped La Défense as we know it today. The history of these developments is nicely presented in two books:

  • Paris La Défense, Métropole Européenne des Affaires, COFER, Editions du Moniteur, 1989, ISBN 2-281-15110-7
  • CNIT, Histoire et Perspectives, Philippe Chancerel - Editeur

Right now, La Défense is again in a period of transformation by intense construction activity:

  • The CNIT, its first focal point, undergoes its second major renovation
  • A new landmark tower, la Tour Phare, is under construction. 300m high! Architect: Thom Mayne (Morphosis). Image The 10 projects proposed in the architectural competition for this tower are exhibited at the Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine. Website
  • Société Générale adds a third tower to its existing twins (this is where the image "Construction" comes from)
  • The shopping centre “Les 4 Temps” is being completely renovated and extended (already partially completed)
  • The continuation of the grand axis, beyond the Grand Arche, is well under way in Nanterre
  • One of the older towers, Place de l’Iris, will be replaced by a futuristic joint project of Generali and Vinci (Valode et Pistre are the architects).
  • Etc.

Before telling you in my next post what my project at la Défense is all about, (how does my photographic motto “Saisir l’éphémère” relate to a conglomerate of office towers and apartment blocks?), let’s briefly turn to the question of

what symbolises La Défense today?
  • The statue after which it was named? Most people would probably not even recognize it.

Statue La Défense 2 Statue La Défense 1
(Click on the images to enlarge)

  • The CNIT as its modern-time nucleus?
  • La Grande Arche, marking the axis Louvre, Arc de Triomphe and beyond?

Axe Défense
(Click on the image to enlarge)

  • Or the axis itself?

If my project of a book on La Défense ever sees the light of the day, I will have to find an image for the cover that can claim symbolic value.

Here are some images that combine potential “symbols” of La Défense.

And they give you an idea of how I want to treat the subject. Tell me what you think about them. (Use the Comment Icon at the end of this posting.)
(More images on my Website

Le Pitéton

"Le Piéton"



Arche dans CNIT

Arche & CNIT