La Défense – Puteaux

La Défense district is located in the town of Puteaux, to the east of Paris.

La Defense - Paris
La Defense – Paris

The 560-hectare district is the largest purposely built business district in Europe.

Puteaux was entirely eradicated during the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71, because it was located between the Mont Valérien, one the 16 defensive forts of Paris, and the Prussian lines.

Many bombs missed their target and left it in a complete state of ruins!

The heroic French resistance, which took place on this sector when the Prussians besieged Paris from September 17, 1870 to January 19, 1871, became known as Défense de Paris – Defence of Paris.

The sculptor Barrias created a statue to pay tribute to all the soldiers and civilians who took part in the defence of Paris.

This statue, La Défense de Paris, was erected in Puteaux in 1883 and consequently left its name to the district.

By then, Puteaux was a wasteland that was progressively turned into an industrial zone.

Business District Development

However, the area was not rehabilitated until the development of La Défense, which took place from 1957 to 1989.

La Defense - Paris
La Defense – Paris

The Esso Tower was the first building to come out of the ground; it was inaugurated in 1958.

The inauguration of the second building, the CNIT (National Centre for Industry and Technology), took place in 1964.

The height of both buildings was, however, limited to a height of 100m.

The CNIT has since been redeveloped and is one of Paris’ tallest skyscrapers.

Over 70 major French and foreign companies have since installed their headquarters in La Défense.

Arcelor, Areva, Aventis, Axa’s Tour First, Fiat, EDF, Elf, Gan, Manhattan Tower, Neuf Cegetel, Société Générale and Total are the most famous.

Their impressive glass and steel skyscrapers have to this day created some 3.5 million m2 of office space.

La Defense with Arc de Triomphe in the distance
La Defense with Arc de Triomphe in the distance

The RER line A linked La Défense to Paris in 1970, and the Metro line 1 in 1992.

Finally, the gigantic shopping mall Les Quatre Temps opened in the early 1980’s.

The district is currently at the end of an extensive re-development program initiated in 2006.

It is now sub-divided into 12 zones, which are centered on the Grande Arche de la Défense and Les Quatre-Temps.

Sixty works of art, classical and contemporary, some temporary, others permanent, are scattered all over the place.

Among them you’ll find Le Pouce de César.

It takes a whole day to discover the district.

Directions: Parvis de la Défense – Puteaux – Department of Hauts-de-Seine
Metro: Esplanade de la Défense on Line 1 or RER A
Coordinates: Lat 48.889736 – Long 2.241843

Photo Wikimedia Commons: Header

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