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Thom Mayne’s Green Design Will Drive Redevelopment of Parisian Business District

A new green skyscraper designed by 2005 Pritzker Prize winning American architect Thom Mayne will anchor a redevelopment of the La Defense business district west of Paris. Mayne’s submission was chosen over nine other proposals, including those from Lord Foster, Rem Koolhaas, and Jacques Herzog. Nicolai Ourossoff of The New York Times calls the design “a work of sparkling originality that wrestles thoughtfully with the urban conflicts of the city’s postwar years.”

At 984 feet, the tower, called Phare (Lighthouse), will be the tallest in Paris (though 24 meters shorter than the Eiffel Tower). The building will include wind turbines on its roof which will generate energy for heating and cooling the structure for five months out of the year. Mayne’s design also includes a moveable double hung curtain wall which will allow sunlight to penetrate into the building’s core but significantly cut down the heat which that sunlight produces. (Note that this type of curtain wall system is currently being installed at the New York Times Tower on 8th Avenue here in Manhattan).

Unibail, which owns the largest stake in the La Defense development, will build the 1.4 million square foot tower at a cost of $800 million Euro ($1.05 billion).

“I’ve shown a softer side; my wife is really teasing me,” Mr. Mayne, 62, said in an interview at Morphosis, his firm in Santa Monica. “The sensuousness of Paris found its way into the project.”

He likened the building, the Phare Tower, to a “layered dress” or a woman’s slip. “The skin becomes primary, the body secondary,” Mr. Mayne said. “It becomes metabolic, the skin. It moves.”

The centerpiece of a rethinking of La Défense, a coldly received office district on Paris’s western outskirts, his eco-friendly tower seems to rise organically from its base, sloping gently upward before peaking in delicate fragments that will serve as wind turbines.

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