Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
An international design competition was launched at the initiative of French president François Mitterrand. Danish architect Johann Otto von Spreckelsen (1929-1987) designed it to be a 20th century version of the Arc de Triomphe: a monument to humanity and humanitarian ideals rather than military victories. The construction was begun in 1982. After Spreckelsen's death in 1987, his associate, French architect Paul Andreu, completed the work in 1989/90.
The Arche is almost a perfect cube (width: 108m, height: 110m, depth: 112m; it has been suggested that the structure looks like a four dimensional hypercube projected onto the three dimensional world). It has a pre-stressed concrete frame covered with glass and Carrara marble from Italy and was built by the French civil engineering company Bouygues.
The almost-completed Arche was inaugurated in July 1989, with grand military parades that marked the bicentenary of the French revolution. It completed the line of monuments that forms the Axe historique running through Paris. The Arche is turned at an angle of 6.33° on this axis however, a peculiarity which has been explained by several theories. In particular the architect is said to have wanted to emphasise the depth of the monument, while the specific angle was chosen to create symmetry with the similarly-skewed Louvre at the other end of the Axe. However, it seems the most important reason was mundanely technical. With a métro station, an RER station and a motorway all situated directly underneath the Arche, the angle was the only way to accommodate the structure's giant foundations.
The two sides of the Arche house government offices. The roof section is an exhibition centre. The vertical structure visible in the photograph is the lift scaffolding. Impressive views of Paris are to be had from the lifts taking visitors to the roof.
- Grande Arche (in French)
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