The sequence of an historical axis
The Square imagined for La Défense by Emile Aillaud in 1973 obscured the presence of an historical axis. It brutally interrupted the initial linear sequence introduced by the American Dan Kiley which had extended the perspective from the Champs Elysées. In wishing today to reestablish the unity of the fragmented site, the modernist rigor of its initial 1960s outlines makes again perfect sense.
At ground level, the existing layout of the esplanade serves as a framework onto which the project elements can be arranged in a composition. The scope and amplitude of the axis itself determined the dimensions of our proposal.
An elementary geometry
The heterogeneity of the neighborhood is the result of the differences in the facades and the varying dimensions of the towers. The congestion of the site is aggravated by a proliferation of street furniture obstacles. All elements of the site point to the proposal of a radical intervention, the design of a powerful and identifiable figure at the scale of the large arch. It is a question of bringing together into a clear and legible form the various elements that now intermingle with one another excessively, creating confusion and disorientation.
We propose a vast mineral surface that takes the layout of the parvis below the Grande Arche and extends it all the way to the esplanade developments envisioned by Kiley. This fifteen by fifteen meter layout functions in unifying the esplanade, the square, and the parvis through an identifiable motif at the scale of the neighborhood. In the center, a lawn is cut out and thrown into relief whose dimensions are determined by the breadth of the monumental axis. The expanse that results works in creating more room for urban practices without stripping the site of the beauty linked to its monumentality.
The large lawn
The large lawn is traversed by two unaligned mineral pathways. They were charted following the larger cross-flows of pedestrian traffic, and establish a rhythmic and directed crossing of the site. They help channel foot traffic and its circulation, ensuring the preservation of peaceful, tranquil areas. This sweeping lawn of 4500 square meters is a natural material easily replaceable. It guarantees the compatibility of the site's temporary and permanent functions. Its quality is not dependent upon established technical properties but rather upon a thought-out process of maintenance, precisely planned and coordinated throughout the year.
The lateral pathways
To the north and to the south, facing the surrounding buildings, two functional pathways efficiently bring together all the light traffic running to and from the businesses and office buildings. These pathways also render the large lawn accessible to service and maintenance vehicles, as well as to trucks during large spectacles and events. They help seamlessly redistribute the various kiosks that dot the site on a more regular basis.
The tree-filled gardens
To the north and to the south, tree-filled gardens are created within the enclosed squares at the foot of buildings. Seen from the lawn, this thick vegetal front presents a shadowed curtain in the foreground of the existing built area. Under the trees, the squares are reconstituted by layers of vegetal “ground-cover”. Following the example of the classical groves designed by Kiley, these tree masses create spaces of more intimate dimension where one can linger and relax. Opening at certain points, they allow for the presentation of artworks and the contrast with the monumental axis.
DEFACTO- Etablissement Public de Gestion du Quartier d’Affaires de la Défense
MDP Michel Desvigne Paysagiste (Lead consultant)
Paul Andreu architect
2 ha (5 acres)