Tête Défense

  • Nanterre, France
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A New Horizon

The task was to build on the horizon of one of the most universally recognized and mathematically constructed perspectives, where the temptation would be to become invisible. But La Defence was already built, and its towers troubled the profile of the Arc de Triomphe. The void in the middle had become a sign of weakness, the incapacity to bring a final touch with contemporary architecture.


Building on the horizon is about merging, overlap, texture, background. It’s about both framing the landscape and providing a canvas. The sun and clouds are far-away, inaccessible, figurative forms which belong to an impalpable reality which haphazardly change the horizon. The horizon also changes as we approach it, passing through various scales and perceptions.


Using a square, abstract grid materializing the far-away, the International Centre of Communication would house a museum, a databank, and a pole to visit. The entrance hall is an immense cathedral to communication, where enormous electronic screens forming a large vault can be viewed from balconies. It’s a place to assemble for information and discussion, open 24 hours a day. Ascending up to the higher levels, the museum merges with irregular pathways, winter gardens and panoramic terraces – some with bars or bookshops. Even higher up, specialist spaces are organized around a central glazed canopy. On the roof terrace, a restaurant and reception rooms are protected by the extended canopy covering the important central space, where 100 meters below trees are planted.


The symbolic architectural intention of the Ministry of Urbanism and Housing, and Ministry of the Environment is two transparent institutions with thousands of workstations, reflecting a certain cultural and political attitude towards the towers. The reception area is neither inside nor out, amid trees where lifts take you up to glazed offices and walkways with exceptional views.



Jean Nouvel