I’m sure this is a copyright violation, but this blog isn’t very big and hopefully the AFP will appreciate the free translation. There were so many interesting things in this article about Paris’ first experiment in over 30 years with tall buildings, and American sources make the plan sound a lot more expansive that it really is, so I figured I’d just translate the whole thing. All measurements in metric; multiply meters by 3 and sq. meters by 10 to get rough approximations of their feet equivalents.
Paris will soon welcome towers and tall buildings after an historic green light from elected officials, modifying a city code that dates back to 1977, relegating them however to the outskirts of the capital.
The Council of Paris voted on Tuesday in favor of removing the height cap of the Local Urban Plan (PLU), which since 1977 has limited heights to 37 meters. There are, however, already a few taller buildings dating back from before the PLU, such as the Montparnasse Tower (210 meters).
Called “historic,” this lifting of the height limit means that residential towers of up to 50 meters and office towers of up to 180 meters could sprout in specific neighborhoods of the capital.
The municipal council revised the city code for the Masséna-Bruneseau area in the 13th arrondissement (in the southeast of paris), which will be the first neighborhood to welcome tall buildings.
In this undeveloped area, at the heart of the Left Bank development zone (130 hectares), Anne Hidalgo, the Socialist Party deputy for urbanism, explained: “We have an ambitious economic development plan, with commercial space, hotels, and office space on the order of 100,000 sq. meters, with the possibility of four sites for buildings that could rise up to 180 meters.”
Hidalgo even showed a full session of the Council a drawing of the project by architect Edouard François, the winner of the architectural competition for the first 50 meter apartment building expected in Masséna-Buneseau
“Three sites in Paris are involved in this lifting of the height limit,” added the mayor. Besides the 13th, these would be the Triangle Tower (Porte de Versailles, 15th) and Clichy-Batignolles (17th),” where we envision lifting the height limit to 50 meters for a residential building and lifting it to 160 meters for the Superior Court.”
The figure of 160 meters for the future tribunal wasn’t chosen by accident: “Above that, and the Superior Court would have risen above the Grand Palais,” added Ms. Hidalgo’s representative.
The green light for the tall buildings is a victory for the Socialist mayor Bertrand Delanoë who is in his first term. The Greens and the UMP have therefore been trying to block this effort, for “this was the topic of citywide debate in 2008. The mayor said in the first round of municipal elections that we would allow these rights, not without regards to placement and means, and with a respect for sustainable development,” said Ms. Hidalgo.
But the Greens are still opposed to the tall buildings, seeing them as énergivores and antithetical to the Grenelle resolutions on the environment.
According to Yves Contassot, an Ecology Europe-The Greens councillor, “all serious studies show that these towers are a heresy. It’s an architectural form of the past. There are very few cities left in the world that are continuing to build towers,” claimed the councillor from the 8th arrondissement.
“A tower is not green, because building one requires a totally disproportionate amount of energy compared to a traditional building.” He cites “the elevators: to climb 20 or 30 stories, for one person you need five times the energy that it takes to climb to the fourth floor. You also need pressure to make the water rise, doubling systems to be safe. We’ll go at least five or six times over the goals set in the Paris climate plan,” he said, although the city claims this is untrue.
I left the énergivores part in there ’cause I thought it was funny, and “energy-inefficient” makes it sound like they weren’t going to stick enough solar panels on its roof, which I don’t think quite captures the sentiment. Anyway, I thought it was interesting that only the Socialists supported the towers. It’s odd that the center-right UMP party opposes the plan – the article makes it looks like just politics, though I’m not sure. And while we could have expected the Greens to oppose the plan (I guess European environmentalists haven’t warmed to density like America’s have), the amount of facts that seem pulled from Yves’ derrière is quite jarring. I also liked the “all serious studies show” rhetoric, which draws on the tactic, perfected in American politics, of deeming your opponents as not “serious” people.
Ant6nd saysNovember 26, 2010 at 6:24 am
“I guess European environmentalists haven’t warmed to density like America’s have” … wtf?
I think it’s more like American notions of environmentalisms haven’t caught up to reality (instead preferring green-washing), and your article is testament to that.
Alon Levy saysNovember 26, 2010 at 11:53 am
The elevator comment is plain wrong – elevators are counterweighted, hence energy-efficient. The comment about “very few cities” is Eurocentric beyond belief and made me squirm. But the comment about water pressure is true. The comment about “serious studies” is grating, but I’m not sure it’s wrong – the studies I’ve seen suggest a peak efficiency for mid-rise buildings, in the 6-10 stories range.
Bear in mind, there’s good reason to allow much taller buildings, especially for office use. The efficiency loss isn’t huge, and could be a loss leader for much lower transportation needs. Office space needs to go somewhere, and if there’s no room in the city, it’ll go into suburban office parks. Not building at all is a net economic drag, and there are much better places to trade money for a cleaner environment in, such as heavy industry.