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.