La Defense is the French equivalent to Canary Wharf or Manhattan, a flagrant symbol of the wealth of large corporations, it is so at odds with the rest of Paris - or indeed France, to become a major tourist attraction for French nationals. And as a result a playground of opportunity for landscape architects and designers.
It is surprisingly small, the two metro stations little more than a 3 minute walk apart. And has the feel of being nothing more than a large plaza. But the landscape architecture, as you head away from the Grand Arche, (whose angle is noticeably out of sync with the vista heading towards the Arc De Triomphe), becomes an increasingly strange celebration of the wider French landscape and its relationship with modern Art and Design.
The Grand Arche itself, surrounded by a sea of concrete and which is the most least 'green' place I know in France, (and the 'pebble dash' concrete makes it even unfavourable with skaters), is also home to the French Ministry for Ecology and the Environment. A paradox in the extreme?
One sculpture is omnipresent at La Defense. The Cheminée végétale.
Made from copper, it doesn't work. The plants are all dead and any new plants will die also. There can be no more a glaring example of what happens when 'common' knowledge is ignored for the sake of design than this monstrously expensive blunder.
This sculpture highlights even more the very traditional landscaping, where you could be in any city, town or village in France, which surrounds it.
Further towards the Seine, one of the final pieces of landscaping is about as traditionally French as they come. A vineyard, designed with a 'ha ha' of sorts to create an unbroken view towards the Arc de Triomphe.
The playing about with landscape can be done here safely and as a result prove an invaluable case study for landscape architecture and design as a whole.
One sculpture I really do like and which is enhanced by the clever tree planting behind it is The Thumb, 'La Pouce'
Worth a visit - definately but be prepared to be outraged. A full list of the Art Installations at La Defense can be found here - http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liste_des_%C5%93uvres_d'art_de_la_D%C3...
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