Originally called La Grande Arche de la Fraternité, La Grande Arche de la Défense, or simply La Grande Arche, is a monument and building situated just outside of Paris, in the business district of la Défense. It completes the Historical Axis, extending from the Louvre along the Champs-Elysees to the Arche de Triomphe, and guides Paris to the future.
The competition for a “modernized Arche de Triomphe” was won by the Danish architect Johann Otto von Spreckelsen, whose concept was more or less a hollowed, symmetrical cube, designed to be modern version of the Arc de Triomphe: a monument to humanity and humanitarian ideals rather than military victories.
The Grande Arche de la Défense was completed in 1989 to celebrate the bicentennial of the French Revolution, however, in the years since, there has been little to celebrate: Only a few years after it was built, the structure of its façade began to deteriorate, with extensive cracking and spalling. The building's concrete frame covered with 300,000 tons of glass and white Italian Carrara marble was soon succumbing to the effects of climate and acid rain.
A restoration team was put in place and it immediately began scouring the world to find a stone that would withstand extreme temperature swings, while fully respecting the original sleek and gleaming white design.
The team found a natural choice in the flawless character, even grain and purity of color of Bethel White granite, quarried in Vermont. The hard wearing granite became the basis of a €192 million renovation to replace the Carrara marble exterior with granite panels in 2016.
The surface treatment the granite receives ensures the same shade and shine as the original marble, resulting in a clean and white surface, with no worries of durability.
The Grand Arche opened again to the public in 2017 after seven years of renovation works. It features panoramic views of Paris and includes a restaurant and an exhibition area dedicated to photojournalism.
The restoration won the Grand Pinnacle Award. This recognition is given to the best project across all categories and is a top prize among the highly coveted awards, which are bestowed by the Natural Stone Institute. The Grand Pinnacle is awarded to “projects whose beauty, creativity, ingenuity and craftsmanship exemplifies professional mastery in the use of natural stone for commercial and residential applications.” An independent panel of judges from both industry and design professions evaluated the entries based on seven project categories.
The thirty-five story Grande Arche functions mainly as an office space, and contains an exhibition hall at its uppermost level. Below the Arche sits a shopping mall and cinema.