Europe’s largest business district La Défense lies in the west of Paris and is a large office area. The pedestrian zone located herein is 250 metres wide and over 1 km long. Planning for this district had already begun in 1955 whilst the actual construction did not begin until 1963. However, for this to happen a large part of the site had to first be demolished as the working district and large factory area of three companies still lay there. In order to give you an idea of the size of this space - including the green areas, the entire site is 43 hectares.
The name of this district was derived from a monument which the city authorities commissioned in honour of the fallen soldiers of the German-French war who defended the city vehemently. In 1883 the bronze sculpture was inaugurated however, due to construction work was removed, but was later placed in its original spot. The first mention of the large hill was at the time of King Ludwig XV as a central avenue was created spanning from the Champs Élysées to the top of the hill. Well into the 19th Century a windmill could be found on the highest point of the hill.
Construction of the large business district began in 1958 with the establishment of the building authority EPAD. The task of this independent authority was to discharge the existing business district around the ‘Arc de Triomphe’ and relocate a large part of the centre to this area. At the same time due to a private initiative, the CNIT Exhibition Centre was created which was a pilot building. As per the EPAD, to begin with 850, 000 square metres of office space were to be built in various towers - with Manhattan as a model. One of the main components of La Défense was a huge flagstone – 40 hectares in size that was also to include the pedestrian zone. Parking, road access and other infrastructure was built to the edge of this huge flagstone.
In 1989 for the 200-year anniversary of the Revolution, ‘Le Grand Arche de la Défense’ was built - a skyscraper clad with white marble that even from a great distance could be seen as the entrance to La Défense. With this structure the large axis of Bastille-Louvre-Champs-Élysées was completed whilst at the same time inaugurating the expansion of this district. Today La Défense – spanning over more than 80 hectares is one of the largest office spaces in the world in which however also lives a large portion of the working population.