Born of the vision of a triumphant modernity, La Défense is a unique business district planned ex nihilo, a totally new economic infrastructure built on a horizontal slab. Certain aspects of its model now seem obsolete. The towers have become the symbols of an economy organized in large, hierarchical and watertight companies. The district suffers from a lack of local anchors and accessibility. In a context of successive crises (sanitary, environmental, economic and social), La Défense questions and crystallizes the doubts of a society in full mutation, whose models it seems essential to question.
La Défense is also something that is already there, a déjà-là, to be considered in its complexity, with its assets and its defects. The slab is a real artificial geography that spreads out 30ha of pedestrian space. The towers stand like isolated totems in this landscape, marked by the great monumental impulses of the CNIT and the Grande Arche. At a time when emissions from the construction sector account for a quarter of the world's total, it is essential to deal with this legacy, whose carbon footprint has already been largely amortized. Repair and stimulate rather than destroy and rebuild: it is a model of resilience that must be invented here.
The future of La Défense lies in its capacity to accommodate collective and evolving thought, in the image of a society in search of connection and meaning. Our proposal is a flexible system capable of diffusing itself, of leaving room for the unforeseen, for randomness, and of placing human interaction at the heart of the system.
We imagine a method based on a series of opportunistic interventions that form a whole. They respond to a series of challenges: to multiply the potential for connections, to offer the conditions for a re-humanized work, to dock the infrastructure to its immediate environment to make La Défense a new hybrid centrality.
It is a question of making the avant-garde an engine of the imagination rather than trying to normalize utopia, making verticality attractive in an original experience in the open air of the city. With barely the cost of a new tower we could create a universe, invent a new psychogeography for La Défense.
The pylons are minimal interventions with maximum effect. Light and slender structures, they multiply exponentially the flows and connections between the towers thanks to multi-level walkways. The richness of human exchanges becomes a physical, visible phenomenon. The potential use of each square meter of the towers is increased thanks to the possible combination of numerous services.
Equipped with vertical cores, staircases, gardens and suspended terraces, they are in a way a shared externalization of new needs capable of meeting the expectations of a re-humanized work: accessible green breathing spaces, new services at height made possible by the new circulation routes (auditorium, restaurant, business center); a vertical decompartmentalization of value. They offer a real alternative to heavy restructuring or demolition-reconstruction solutions for high-rise buildings. A stimulus, a light support to the concrete and glass colossi.
Finally, they are discreet environmental relays, capable of capturing and storing rainwater and of returning it to irrigate vertical gardens that are refuges for biodiversity, they host a system of integrated wind turbines, as well as work to cool and mist the slab in the summer heat.
In the international competition of business districts, La Défense is in a class of its own. It is the only "island" territory, built ex-nihilo far from the historic center of Paris, it is independent of the general urban structure. La Défense is an organ of the metropolis, but it is also potentially a new centrality, reinforced by the imminent arrival of the Grand Paris express. The existing East-West link must be completed by a new North-South axis.
The Gates are radical and visible connecting infrastructures capable of anchoring La Défense in its immediate environment, a territory of half a million inhabitants. They are the frontier between two worlds where climbing in height becomes desirable. They are strategically positioned at the junction of the structural axes of Puteaux and Courbevoie and propose a gentle slope around a multi-use public building. By connecting locally, La Défense becomes a hybrid centrality where culture and leisure colonize the temporal and physical interstices left by the office activity - new chronotopias are installed.
Conceived as true public agoras, the Gates welcome a series of programs interfacing with the neighboring cities: soft mobility, public facilities, sports, local shops, etc. They thus provide direct access to the city's urban system and to the system overall.
La Defense must be renaturalized. At a time when all metropolises are pedestrianizing their public spaces, it is important to emphasize the intrinsic qualities of a car-free esplanade of extraordinary dimensions. Rather than wanting to vegetate it entirely by limiting its potential of use, we propose to colonize the vertical dimension of the system.
Thus, the gardens are plant follies located along the axis and allow access to the network. They are free and playful attractions because they promote wandering, climbing and exploration. During major events on the square, they serve as gathering places where the crowd can enjoy the show.
The history of La Défense with its superimposed layers inspired by the utopias of the last century is no longer experienced as a heavy vestige of the past to be erased: on the contrary, it is improved upon and supplemented. The experience of the vertical city is celebrated as an original environment welcoming humans and other forms of life.
A network of bridges gives substance to all of the interventions and disrupts daily life. It is a question of creating internal fractures, of rediscovering porosity at the heart of the great infrastructure of La Défense. Transforming the flows of people is transforming the city: by the multiplication of new links and diversity of routes, the surprise of the detour is rediscovered. We wish to reintroduce randomness here. One navigates between the towers as if in a tree canopy. It is a question of valorizing the interstitial time by improvisation. Rehabilitated towers, pylons, gates and gardens are connected within a system that values ordinary creativity by giving pride of place to soft mobility.