Essential Architecture-  Paris

Tour Montparnasse


Eugene Beaudouin, Urbain Cassan, Louis Hoym de Marien, Jean Saubot, with consultant A. Epstein & Sons


Place Raoul-Dautry, off Boulevard Montparnasse, 15th.




International Style Mid-century modern  


Height  Roof 210m (689 ft)
Technical details  Floor count 59  Floor area 88,400 m² (951,500 ft²)


Office Building
  View over Paris, at dusk, from the top platform of the tower
  Paris from the observation deck of Tour Montparnasse.
Tour Maine-Montparnasse (Maine-Montparnasse Tower), also commonly named Tour Montparnasse is a 210-meter (689-foot) tall office skyscraper located in Paris, France, in the area of Montparnasse. Constructed from 1969 to 1972, it is the tallest skyscraper in France and the ninth tallest building in the European Union.[citation needed] In the future, it may be surpassed in height by the superrenovated Tour AXA (225 m), and later by Tour Phare and Tour Generali (both approximately 300 meters).

Design and construction

The tower was designed by architects Eugène Beaudouin, Urbain Cassan and Louis Hoym de Marien and built by Campenon Bernard.

Built on top of the Montparnasse - Bienvenüe Paris Métro station, the 59 floors of the tower are mainly occupied by offices, while two floors are open to the public for viewing the city; the 56th floor with a restaurant, and the terrace on the top floor. On a clear day, the view covers a radius of 40 km; aircraft can be seen taking off from Orly Airport. The guard-rail can be removed in only two minutes to allow helicopters to land. At the time of construction, it was the tallest building in Europe by roof height. The construction of La Grande Arche in La Défense places the tower in a second line of perspective across Paris: see Axe historique.

Its simple architecture, gigantic proportions and monolithic appearance have been often criticised for being out of place in Paris's urban landscape and, as a result, two years after its completion, the construction of skyscrapers in the city centre was banned.

The design of the tower predates architectural trends that placed high importance on a view of the outside, and so only offices around the perimeter of each floor have windows (more modern skyscrapers are often designed to provide a window for every office, if possible).

It is sometimes said, only half-jokingly, that the view from the top is the most beautiful in Paris, since it is the only place from which you cannot see the tower. (A similar quote is attributed to Guy de Maupassant about the Eiffel Tower, as is one attributed to Frank Lloyd Wright about Harkness Tower when visiting Yale.)

Climbing the tower
In 1995 French urban climber, Alain "Spiderman" Robert, using only his bare hands and feet and with no safety devices of any kind, scaled the building's exterior glass and steel wall to the top.

The asbestos problem
In 2005 studies showed that the tower contained asbestos material. Asbestos when inhaled, for instance during repairs, is a known carcinogen. As with the Jussieu Campus, the problem of removing the asbestos material from a large building used by thousands of people is acute. Projected completion times for removal are: three years if the building is emptied for the duration of the work, and ten years if the building is not emptied.

The asbestos is currently being removed as of July 2007.

This is not a bad tower. It is simply in a bad place. In building this skyscraper, the first of its kind in Paris, Beaudouin and company destroyed the fabric of Montparnasse. Was this intentional? Opinions differ, but the area was impoverished, filled with rebellious artists, and as such was undesirable in President Pompidou’s vision for a modern city. The French could stick the blame for this tower on its American developer, Wylie Tuttle, but they usually take full responsibility for the unfortunate and lonely building. It’s possible that the tower would have been more attractive had Raymond Lopez lived to work on the result. Modernist urban planner Lopez contributed to the initial 1959 plan, which casts the tower in less aggressive pale concrete with transparent glass. What we ended up with is a 56-storey black tower that seems to have landed from another planet, blasting tiny historic streets and artists’ studios into oblivion. Hated when it was completed, the tower forced the French into awareness of their skyline. The government rushed to protect downtown Paris, forbidding other turrets in the city center. Contemporary architecture was forced to go horizontal, as seen in the Centre Pompidou or more recently with the Quai Branly museum project. Looking at this tower, New Yorkers might be reminded of Midtown’s more successful Pan Am Building (whose consulting architects were Walter Gropius & Pietro Belluschi—Europeans out for revenge?) The Tour Montparnasse is best admired from afar, from the other side of the river. At the corner of the Rue du Louvre and Rivoli, you can just see the tower looming at twilight, a Modernist brontosaurus glittering beyond the Neo-classic turrets of Saint-Sulpice


By Lisa Pasold (Special thanks to