CEU to review plans for new towers in Paris

Meeting with SOS Paris to share views

A fact-finding committee from the Council for European Urbanism (CEU) will visit France during the last week in September to review new plans for building towers in Paris. They will share initial findings at a meeting with SOS Paris, a long-established organization specializing in architectural issues in Paris.

With a few exceptions after World War II, new towers have always been banned in Paris. After strong negative public reaction to the 1973 Tour Montparnasse, strict height limits were enacted again in 1977, limits that lasted more than 30 years. In July 2008, however, the City of Paris revoked the ban, citing a housing shortage and an interest in providing towers for corporations. Amid heated opposition, it raised the height limits for housing on the periphery of Paris, and it approved construction of six tower projects. The Paris controversy follows similar citizen opposition to new towers elsewhere in Europe. Criticism of the proposed 100-story Gazprom tower in low-lying Saint Petersburg helped to force that project out of the historic city center, and controversy has surrounded the 72-story “Shard” tower in London.

But CEU committee members stress that they are not coming in with preconceptions. “Our role is to help improve the quality of urban environments, using the best lessons around us – past successes as well as past mistakes”, says Michael Mehaffy, a CEU board member and Sir David Anderson Fellow at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow. “So we will review the proposals and give our honest assessment, with careful evaluation of long-term sustainability, economic viability, and potential impact on local identity”.

“We are delighted to welcome the expertise of this CEU delegation”, said Jan Wyers, a resident of Paris and a member of SOS Paris. “The new proposals make a number of claims about sustainability and economic development, and we need to evaluate those carefully. We cannot afford to make a terrible mistake that will leave future generations much poorer, in more ways than one. That would certainly not be a ‘sustainable’ strategy”.

The CEU committee will visit several proposed areas of tower development on Friday, 30 September and Saturday, 1 October. The committee will make preliminary comments then and will issue a ‘white paper’ of findings a short time later. Members of the press are invited to join the tour, subject to space availability.

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