Paris starts building ‘Triangle’ tower despite green opposition

An enormous, triangle-shaped glass tower will be erected in the 15th arrondissement of the French capital by 2026, despite opposition from environmentalists and others.

An illustration of what the Triangle Tower will look like
The construction of the Triangle Tower in the 15th arrondissement of Paris will go ahead despite opposition. This is what it will look like. Source: © Herzog & de Meuron

Construction of a 42-floor, pyramid-shaped skyscraper began in Paris on Thursday despite objections from local politicians and associations, and environmentalists who have branded the project “catastrophic”.

The Triangle Tower (Tour Triangle) in the 15th district on the city’s southwestern edge will, at 180 metres (590 feet), become the city’s third-highest building after the Eiffel Tower, completed in 1889, and the Montparnasse Tower, which opened in 1973.

High-rise additions are rare in the inner city limits of the French capital, which prides itself on keeping its historic character intact in the face of rampant development elsewhere.

Designed by Swiss architects Herzog and Meuron, the Triangle Tower — which is to resemble a giant wedge of Toblerone chocolate — is to be completed in 2026 at a cost of €660 million ($755 million), according to developers Unibail-Rodamco Westfield (URW).

The plan for the skyscraper was first launched in 2008 and then approved in 2015 by Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo against resistance from her Green party allies in city hall.

Hidalgo, who is standing for the Socialists in April’s French presidential election, has tried to burnish her credentials as an environmental campaigner, decreasing traffic congestion in the city and favouring clean transport, especially bicycles.

The conservative mayor of the 15th district, Philippe Goujon, is also against the project, telling AFP that “the neighbourhood will be devastated for several years”.

Already, he said, there was a constant flow of trucks and “four giant cranes” had been deployed.

The city’s Green legislators have denounced the tower as a “climatic aberration” that should be abandoned because of its “catastrophic carbon footprint”.

Paris prosecutors opened an investigation last June into possible favouritism over the lease of the land on which the tower is being built, following legal complaints from several associations fighting the project.

“How can you justify building a tower made of glass and steel, which needs huge amounts of energy, with 70,000 square metres of office space, in Paris — a city that is already overflowing with offices?” the association “Collectif Contre La Tour Triangle” said.

The lease runs for 80 years and URW has agreed to pay city hall two million euros per year for its duration.

Some two thirds of the tower’s 91,000 square metres are to be used for office space, and there will also be a 130-room hotel, a childcare unit and shops.

URW, which also runs flagship shopping complex Les Halles in the heart of the city, has said that the building could be repurposed in the future as needs changed and that its carbon footprint was low.

Feeling the financial pain from two years of Covid restrictions, URW reduced its share in the operation to 30 percent and brought in insurer Axa to share the cost.

Stock market investors welcomed Thurday’s building start, with URW stock rising nearly six percent on the Paris bourse.

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French riviera: Unesco tsunami warning for Marseille and Cannes

Unesco has announced that the Mediterranean - including the French cities of Marseille and Cannes - will be at risk of tsunamis within the next 30 years, and therefore has included it in its tsunami protection program

French riviera: Unesco tsunami warning for Marseille and Cannes

The risk of tsunamis in the Mediterranean Sea is real – on October 16th, 1979, a tsunami, caused by a landslide, hit the coast of Nice and killed a dozen people. More recently, the Greek island of Samos in the Aegean Sea was hit by a tsunami in 2020.

But the climate crisis and rising sea levels mean that experts fear that in the future they will no longer be rare events along the Mediterranean coast.

Unesco has therefore announced that it will be adding thousands of communities to its Tsunami Ready Plan, including the French cities of Marseille and Cannes.

Experts fear that tsunamis in the Mediterranean could reach up to a metre in height and are almost guaranteed in the next 30 years.

According to Unesco’s calculations, “there is a 100% chance” that tsunamies will occur in the Mediterranean “over the next thirty years.” Therefore, the UN organisation has called for public authorities to institute their multistep programme, which would encourage awareness, warning, and prevention mechanisms for at-risk coastal communities. 

The preparedness program seeks to ensure that these cities and towns, like Marseille and Cannes, will have the necessary response mechanisms in place by 2030.

The Tsunami Ready program, which has already been piloted in dozens of communities across the Caribbean, Pacific and Indian Ocean regions and was prepared by Unesco experts, establishes twelve indicators to be respected by the communities concerned. This means that Marseille and Cannes will be expected create plans for identifying tsunamis threats and build community awareness and preparation for how to cope with tsunamis.

The twelve readiness indicators are shown in the graphic below:

Communities must meet all 12 indicators, which cover Assessment, Preparedness, and Response, will be recognized as ‘Tsunami Ready’ by the UNESCO/IOC.

Tsunamis are usually caused by seismic activity (78 percent of them) – like the deadly Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 that killed over 210,000 people, but 10 percent are also caused by volcanic activity and landslides, like the tsunami that hit the Pacific island of Tonga in January. Meanwhile, the rare 2 percent are caused by meteorological activity.

However, the increased concern for tsunamis along France’s Mediterranean coast is in part due to rising sea levels (resulting from the climate crisis) and the need to better monitor underwater volcanos.

Rising sea levels can lead to an increase in the power of tsunamis – up to tenfold. In some parts of the world, such as Macao, scientists estimate that  tsunamis will have twice their current impact by 2050.

Even a tsunami of 50cm high can do a lot of damage – what sounds like a small flow of water is actually capable of lifting a car and depositing it several dozen meters away.