Phare Tower

  • Puteaux, France
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‘You can see me’


In today’s Paris skyline, there is only a single icon that stands at the 300-metre limit: Madame Eiffel.

Creating a second one is daunting… But it’s too good an opportunity to put Paris and its region back on the map of inventiveness in the urban world. It’s a matter of national salvation.

To do this, obviously, the new icon must aim to be as famous as its companion… a tall order!

No weak-kneed architect need apply! This is not the time to turn your brain off and come up with the umpteenth office tower…!

Eiffel spoke of the industrial revolution of the 19th century, of the myth of steel, of the conquest of the sky through structures that are like cobwebs.

So, let us speak of the visual revolution of the 21st century, of the myth of the alluring image, of the instantaneous digital image that informs us and fascinates us.

The Eiffel Tower has a small firmly planted head; the lighthouse tower will have a big head that turns.

It isn’t exactly clear what Madame Eiffel’s little dark head really is; it will be clear that the big head of the lighthouse tower turns the better to look at us but also the better to be seen.

Voyeur! Exhibitionist!

It’s a well-known conceptual game: ‘I can see you’ – ‘you can see me’.


Tower, tour – image / towers of images / image laps / magic images / outbursts / surprises / exposures / overexposures / furtive fleeting images / appearance and disappearance / images of the Île-de-France, of Paris / images of life here and now, of what’s happening here, of what’s going past and what’s going on here.

Tower, tour – revolution / revolutions / a little world turning imperceptibly / a nanoplanet… yet it turns, all right.


Popular and poetic connotations: the head turning on the body – is it humanoid? a robot?

The nanoplanet: a hidden microworld – to be discovered? – what about a microclimate?

Turning above Paris and the Île-de-France.

Being overflown by the slow silent revolutions.


In this way the lighthouse tower may well become as familiar as its ancestor, especially if we consider its political significance:




It clearly asserts its aim of addressing the whole city.

It symbolises the extension of Paris beyond its traditional borders.

It speaks to everyone, it speaks to them of their life, of the beauty of Paris and the Île-de-France.

It beams.

It accentuates the west of Paris on the map, ‘centralises’ an urban terrain that stretches from Courbevoie to Puteaux, via Nanterre, Levallois and Neuilly…

It clearly signals through its attractiveness that La Défense is on the move and is about to become a centre that’s a great place to be, night and day.

It also says that our capital is still one of modernity’s high places and that its brand of modernity is different from the mute athletic brutality that characterises the new monuments of the global city of the 21st century.



Jean Nouvel