Montparnasse Makeover: Can These Architects Transform One of the World’s Most Hated Buildings?

Pat Finn Pat Finn

When the Eiffel Tower was erected in 1889, it provoked a torrent of outrage among the artists and intellectuals of Paris, many of whom viewed it as an industrial blight on their picturesque city. The writer Guy de Maupassant is said to have eaten lunch in the tower’s restaurant every day because it was the only place in Paris where the structure was not visible.

While hostility toward the Eiffel Tower faded over the years, Parisians remained highly protective of their city’s aesthetics. In 1973, another structure went up in the the City of Lights that provoked a wave of backlash: Tour Montparnasse. The 689-foot (210-meter) rectangular skyscraper, which was the tallest building in France when it opened, came under fire both due to its stylistic incongruity with its surroundings and because its height made it impossible to ignore.

The black structure has earned comparisons to the monoliths in Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 classic, “2001: A Space Odyssey”; via Ceetiz.

Unlike the Eiffel Tower, Tour Montparnasse was never rehabilitated in the public eye. The 59-story sore thumb famously sparked a 42-year prohibition on the construction of skyscrapers in Paris, which was just lifted in the past few years. As recently as 2008, the structure was listed as the second ugliest building in the world by

Fortunately, Tour Montparnasse is being given a shot at redemption. The city has planned a massive, €300-million renovation project for the beleaguered tower called “Tomorrow Montparnasse.” After reviewing over 700 teams comprised of firms from all across the world, the organizers of the contest have whittled the finalists down to just seven teams.

French studios FRANKLIN AZZI ARCHITECTURE, Chartier Dalix and Hardel-Lebihan Architectes have formed a team named nAOM, while the Chinese firm MAD has joined forces with French architects DGLa. OMA and Studio Gang are submitting standalone proposals to the contest, as are the French firms Dominique Perrault Architecture and Architecture Studio and the U.K. firm PLP Architecture.

Via dezeen

“This is a heavy and comprehensive restructuring,” said the competition organizers. “The tower will be completely reconfigured. All the office floors will be renovated, technical installations will be changed and modernized, the building will be completely reconfigured.”

In addition to a new facade and interior, Tour Montparnasse will undergo extensive asbestos removal. In the end, the building will have a totally new look, but it is unclear whether or not this will cause it to stand out less.

The finalists will submit their final proposals in March 2017, with a winner chosen in July. Work is expected to commence in 2019 and conclude in 2023. Watch this space for further updates.

© Pinard Architects

© Pinard Architects

© Flickr user xispics; top image via dezeen

Pat Finn Author: Pat Finn
Pat Finn is a high school English teacher and a freelance writer on art, architecture, and film. He believes, with Orwell, that "good prose is like a windowpane," but his study of architecture has shown him that a window is only as good as the landscape it looks out on. Pat is based in the New York metro area.
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