Design + Architecture

The Visionaries

by Suzanne Wales


On the horizon: Phare Tower, Paris

Paris is not fond of skyscrapers. One hundred and 18 years after it was built, the Eiffel Tower remains the tallest structure in the city. It took a proposal as poetic as Mayne's Phare Tower to finally change the skyline (well, it will in 2012). For many, the Phare (which means "lighthouse" in French) is a sign that Mayne's radical approach is softening: It rises skywards from the soulless landscape of La Défense (a peripheral business district) like a white phoenix. It has also upped the ante of "green" building design: A turbine farm on the roof will supply much of the energy needed for heating and cooling the structure for most of the year, while a movable "skin" can be manipulated to diffuse direct sunlight and optimize access. Eco-credentials aside, the Phare is simply one of the most mesmerizing designs seen so far this century, although its elegant, sensuous curves are more in the spirit of Eiffel than the modern buildings that surround it, such as La Grande Arche de la Défense's hollow cube.

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