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Urban Resistance


N O   S K Y S C R A P E R S   I N   P A R I S

PRESS CONFERENCE

SOS Paris and the Action Group against the Triangle Tower have pleasure in inviting you to the round-table :
PARIS AND SKYSCRAPERS – WITH OR WITHOUT?
Wed Feb 25th – 6 pm – Wedding Room Mairie 2nd arrdt  – 8 rue de la Banque, 75002 Paris

   
Photo © Jan Wyers
 
Go back to the projects of the seventies and their quest for great heights ?
Or develop Paris with respect for the rules that made it great ?
The shape of Paris presents an urban model that conforms to democratic, ecological, social, esthetic and human rules. Together they result in the beauty and efficiency of one of the densest and most agreeable cities in the world. The preservation of the charm of Paris is not a backward-looking battle; on the contrary, it can help cast a new light on present-day environmental and urbanistic questions. Right now, with the impending vote in the Paris Council, it has become a political question.

The following persons will participate in the debate :
Thierry Paquot, philosopher, urbanist and author of Urban Disasters : cities also die (La Découverte, 2015), 
François Loyer, art and architecture historian, board member of SOS Paris, author of the famous  Paris xixth century : the building and the street,
Bertrand Sauzay, former director of worldwide real-estate at Alcatel-Lucent.

Corinne LaBalme, member of the Association des Journalistes du Patrimoine (AJP) and the Association pour la Presse étrangère (APE) will moderate the conference.

After the conference, presentation of the book by Mary Campbell Gallagher, member of SOS Paris : Skyscrapers for Paris?

Press contact : Christine Nedelec, sos.paris@orange.fr, 06 84 18 65 21
 






LES TOURS, UNE MENACE POUR PARIS

En dépit de l’opinion clairement exprimée par les Parisiens en 2004, refusant à 64% la construction de tours dans Paris, le Conseil de Paris s’obstine à encourager aujourd’hui la construction d'immeubles de grande hauteur aux portes de Paris : Une douzaine de projets d’édifices dépassant les 150 mètres sont actuellement à l'étude et plusieurs sont déjà actés (TGI aux Batignolles, Tour Triangle, Tours Duo).
Demain, si rien n’est entrepris pour s’y opposer avec force, d’autres tours s’élèveront au coeur de notre ville, achevant de détruire le ‘skyline’ et le visage humain de Paris.
Architectes et édiles, fascinés par l’exemple de Manhattan, s'entendent pour justifier cette reprise de la construction de tours comme le symbole indispensable de la Modernité.
Pour y parvenir, ils sont prêts à modifier sans complexes le règlement existant, le Plan Local d'Urbanisme.
C'est oublier que Paris est déjà une des villes les plus denses au monde et que les tours ne favorisent ni l'écologie, ni le développement économique, ni le logement social, ni la compétitivité internationale... ni la densité !
SOS Paris en liaison avec de nombreuses associations s’élève contre ces projets de tours qui altéreraient à jamais le visage de la ville. 

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Le jeudi 25 Avril à 14h au Centre d’Accueil de la Presse Etrangère (CAPE) au Grand Palais, entrée Cours la Reine.
Cette conférence de presse est à l'invitation de l'Association des Journalistes du Patrimoine. Elle sera animée par :

Thierry Paquot, auteur notamment de « La Folie des Tours », professeur à l’Institut d’Urbanisme de Paris,
Gabriele Tagliaventi, architecte, professeur d’architecture de l’Université de Ferrare, lauréat de nombreux prix européens,
Bertrand Sauzay, ancien directeur des activités mondiales d’immobilier du Groupe Alcatel-Lucent, président de l’association ADAHPE.
Michel Schulman, président de l’Association des Journalistes du Patrimoine (AJP).

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It's the most popular city in the world
28 million visitors a year, bringing in 84 billion euros to the city's coffers.

Yet this, apparently, is not good enough for Bertrand Delanoë, the Socialist mayor of Paris. Nor for François Hollande, the Socialist president of France.

Both men are promoting a plan that would change this "City of Light" into a city of shadow -- a city ringed with possibly a dozen skyscrapers, each one more bizarre than the last.

Originally called Le Grand Paris, and enthusiastically endorsed by former president Nicolas Sarkozy, the idea was to construct huge buildings outside the city limits, as defined by the Périphérique (the outer ring road). Thus, the city's 11-story limit on height would not be challenged. The plan also envisaged new rail lines that would bring people in from the suburbs to work in these buildings, which were conceived as strictly commercial, not residential.

This grandiose project, running headlong into the economic crisis, eventually got watered down. Today, the promoters are planning to build three skyscrapers that will be built within the city limits. And they plan to follow up these three with at least three more. SOS Paris, an organization founded in 1973 to fight French president Georges Pompidou's plan to build highways along the Seine, is the most outspoken opponent of the projects.
The plan, as they see it, is sheer folly -- urban hubris run amok. First of all, Paris does not need more office buildings. The cluster of office towers at La Défense, begun 40 years ago on the edge of the city, is falling into disuse as many businesses are leaving. What Paris needs is residential construction -- there is an appalling shortage of housing.

But that's not where the glamour lies. Many cities today, from St. Petersburg to Dubai, think that by erecting weird new skyscrapers they will enhance their global image. City planners and -- sadly to say -- architects, too, tend to denigrate the old and the traditional, and promote instead what is brazenly nonconformist. It's fine to be culturally avant-garde (buying art, composing music), but living in a city is serious business and should not be the subject of wild experimentation. Someone has even suggested a Hippocratic oath for urban planners: Thou shalt do no harm.
There is much harm to be done to Paris if these new building projects go through. One, in the 15th arrondissement, is a 50-story glass triangle designed by the reputable Swiss firm, Herzog & de Meuron. It is ludicrous to think that they may have simply magnified I. M. Pei's glass pyramid at the Louvre.... but the suspicion lingers. They claim that their Tour Triangle would not cast a large shadow on the neighborhood, but it would definitely require the demolition of half of Paris' main convention and exhibition center at the Porte de Versailles.

The second project, planned for the 17th arrondissement, is a boxy, three-tiered, 48-story courthouse, designed by the Italian architect, Renzo Piano, who sees it as "a setting conducive to the exercise of Justice." (Opponents call it a Tower of Babel.) It would replace the venerable Palais de Justice on the Ile de la Cité. Understandably, the entire legal community is opposed to this project, so there is a good chance that it will be dropped.

The third project is already underway in the 13th arrondissement, in the neighborhood behind the Gare d'Austerlitz and the Bibliothèque Mitterrand. The site is euphemistically named Paris Rive Gauche. It is indeed on the left bank of the Seine, but there the resemblance ends. Developers are throwing up a haphazard assortment of residential and commercial buildings that range from bland to ugly. And although they boast that there is new office space for 50,000 people, there will be housing for only 15,000.

The rationale for these new projects, and the ones that may follow, is seriously flawed. When it comes to architecture, bigger is not better. It has been shown that skyscrapers are not more energy-efficient. Also, they are extremely difficult to evacuate in case of a fire or other emergency. And as they draw large numbers of people into a single high-rise building (where an estimated 20% of their time is spent in elevators!), the place of work becomes an artificial neighborhood, devoid of authentic urban activity.

Messrs. Hollande and Delanoë warn that Paris will become "a museum city" if these skyscrapers are not built, and that foreign visitors and foreign investment will dwindle. In fact, Paris will probably be less desirable if its traditional attractions are (literally) overshadowed by modern monstrosities.

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THE END OF THE SKYSCRAPERS AGE

One of the most striking images of the contemporary economic crisis is the photo of an incompleted skyscraper with its sad building site completely abandonned.
In fact, is the crisis broke out in the US with the subprimes issue, the consequence has been the dramatic abandonment of skyscrapers projects all around the world. In Moskow, Dubai, Las Vegas, Tokyo, etc.
That is why the recent declarations by several Europeans mayors to be willing to build again skyscrapers reach the level of grottesque and, as many have already stated, that quite bizzarre attitude is maybe the best evidence of the political and economic crisis of the Old Continent.
Actually, the mania of building skyscrapers again is often based upon very well known misurderstandings:

1. SKYSCRAPERS ARE OLD
Indeed, very old. They were introduced in the US two centuries ago, in the second half of the 19th century in New York and Chicago to provide with enough floor space the needs of the emerging American economy in terms of office and retail.
2. DEMOCRATIC CITIES vs UNDEMOCRATIC CITIES
As soon as the skyscrapers were introduced, Americans immediately realised that clear, transparent laws had to be established in order to rule the construction of skyscrapers in cities, by offering citizens equal rights.
And the rule was very simple: either every citizen hAs the right to build a skyscraper on his property or nobody.
That is why there are cities with skyscrapers -such as New York, Chicago, Dallas, etc.- and cities without skyscrapers.
The capital city of the US, Washington DC, has no skyscraper. Every building in Washington has to be lower than the first cornice of the Capitol. In other words, no building is allowed to be higher than the House of Parliament.
Very clear, very efficient.
Neither Bill Gates nor Warren Buffet can build a skyscraper in Washington DC.
However, there is a quite impressive series of cities without skyscrapers in the US: Madison, the capital city of the State of Wisconsin; Annapolis, the capital city of the State of Maryland; Olympia, the capital city of the State of Washington; Harrisbourg the capital city of the State of Pennsylvania; Jefferson City, the capital city of the State of Missouri; Santa Fe, the capital city of the State of New Mexico; and also Charleston, Savannah, Santa Barbara, etc.
A city without a clear law ruling the construction of skyscrapers is a city with a deficit in democracy. A City with skyscrapers scattered all around its territory is a city where only the citizens who are close to the power have the right to build skyscrapers and make profit, not every citizen. In other words, when we see a city skyline with scattered skyscrapers, we immediately understand that there is a problem of democracy down there.
3. CITIES WITH SKYSCRAPERS HAVE NOT THE HIGHEST DENSITY RATIO
The issue of density is often utlized in order to justify the construction of a skyscraper, while a city like Paris has a density ratio of almost 230 inhabitants per hectar against the 150 of New York City.
In fact, we often forget that NYC has skyscrapers in 2 areas only: Up-Town and Mid-Town. There is no skyscraper in the area of “Sex and City”, the Greenwich Village.

4. SKYSCRAPERS ARE DIFFERENT THAN TOWERS
A Tower is a public building with a highly symbolic value, it is the architectural expression of a community. A Campanile, a Beffroi, a Minaret, a Pagode, etc. A Tower is always a building with a very limited number of floors.
Both Christian Campaniles and Islamic Minarets are just 1 storey-only buildings. The Eiffel Tower is a 3 storeys-building!
On the opposite side, a Skyscraper is a highly speculative building trying to maximize the number of storeys in order to maximize the vendable floor surface, and thus the profit.
That is why the construction of skyscrapers must be ruled by clear and efficient democratic laws within a democratic society.
A Tower is always legitime within a democratic city, a skyscraper not.

5. SKYSCRAPERS ARE FRAGILE
And vorax consumers of energy. The only way a skyscraper can survive on a daily basis is through its mechanical system of vertical circulation as well as through its mechanical system of ventilation and heating.
It is incredibly contradictory to express the will to build an ecological city and to deliver builing permits for skyscrapers.
In addition, the astonishing fragility of skyscrapers was tragically proved on September 11, 2001.
While a plane against a skyscraper causes its fast collapse and a huge toll of lifes, the same plane against a low building such as the Pentagon causes just minor losses.

Finally, the true challenge of our society is to build efficient eco-sustainable cities, compact, walkable, mixed-use ones. Cities with a balanced density ratio allowing citizens to live, work and shop in a pedestrian way. Cities with a balanced density ratio that allows the construction and daily performance of an efficient system of public transit. Cities that offer citizens equal rights. True ecological democratic cities.

Gabriele Tagliaventi_____

 
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