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The Grande Arche: window on Paris

The Grande Arche de la Défense, the modern version of the Arc de Triomphe, is a striking cube-like structure of white marble and glass. The Arche is located among the impressive high-rises of the La Défense business district.

The Grande Arche was devised by the Danish architect Johan Otto von Spreckelsen. His design won an international competition organised by President François Mitterrand. The former French president wanted the business district – until then always deserted on weekends – to be revitalised by an attraction to which people would flock. The Grande Arche was inaugurated on 14 July 1989, the day of the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution.

La Grande Arche de la Défense
La Grande Arche de la Défense

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La Grande Arche de la Défense

Huge contemporary cube

The Grande Arche resembles a four-dimensional hypercube. The construction is 110 metres high, 108 metres wide and 112 metres deep. The space under the arcade is so large that Notre-Dame Cathedral would easily fit underneath. The cube is left open for a reason: Von Spreckelsen wanted it to represent a ‘window to the world’. And he certainly succeeded in offering a wonderful glimpse into Paris.

A straight line

Until 2010, panoramic glass lifts brought visitors to the roof of the Grande Arche, but that is unfortunately no longer possible. A visit to La Défense is certainly worthwhile, however, as it’s the best place to admire the Axe historique which runs east to the city centre. A virtual line connects this huge Arche with the Arc de Triomphe, the Champs-Élysées, the smaller Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, and the Louvre pyramid. If you look closely, you’ll see that the Grand Arche is positioned at a small angle to the axis. A laser beam links it with the top of the Louvre pyramid.

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The Axe historique ending with the Grande Arche

See map

La Grande Arche, 1 Parvis de la Défense, Paris