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10 Surprising Grande Arche Facts

Did you know that the Arc de Triomphe, one of the most famous arches in the world, has a modern brother?

In this post, you’ll learn all about it in the ultimate list of Grande Arche Facts, a modern arch in France with some interesting stories to tell.

1. It’s located in the business district of Paris

The Grande Arche is officially known as “La Grande Arche de la Défense,” which refers to the main business district of Paris, La Défense. This amazing attraction is located in the west of Paris in a commune known as “Puteaux.”

Apart from its official name, it’s also known as “La Grande Arche de la Fraternité,” the “Arche de la Défense” or simply as “La Grande Arche.”

The giant monumental hypercube, which stands 110 meters (360 feet) tall, is supposed to represent a modern version of the famous Arc de Triomphe and the sides are being used as office buildings for various French government offices.

Grande Arche Paris
The arch / wowo2008 / CC-by-sa 3.0

2. Its design was chosen by an architectural competition

French President at the time François Mitterrand was the one who launched a design competition to construct a “New Arc de Triomphe.” The competition launched in 1982 and was won by Danish architect Johan Otto von Spreckelsen (1929–1987), who was mainly famous for his designs of modern churches in Denmark, and Danish engineer Erik Reitzel (1941-2012).

One of the most interesting Grande Arche facts is that its ultimate purpose would be to serve as a humanitarian monument as opposed to its counterpart, which was built to celebrate France’s military victories.

Grande Arche architectural design

3. La Grande Arche was completed by a renowned French architect

Even though Johan Otto von Spreckelsen started the work when the construction of the Grande Arche started in the year 1985, he passed on the job to his French colleague Paul Andreu (1939-2018) just a year later.

Andreu was famous for his work on numerous international airports all around the world, including France’s biggest airport, Charles de Gaulle, as well as many big projects in China.

Art-Facts Youtube Channel

He completed the job together with Danish engineer Reitzel.

Grande arche architecture
Design of the arche / Source

4. The arch was inaugurated for a special event

The Grande Arche was officially inaugurated in July of the year 1989. This was done together with grand military parades for the bicentennial of the French Revolution, which started in 1789.

Grande arche at night
The arch at night / Atoma /

5. It faces the Arc de Triomphe directly

One of the most interesting Grande Arche facts is that it is located at the very end of what is called the “Axe Historique,” a direct line of monuments that runs right through the heart of the city.

In perspective, this central axis runs from the Louvre through the Tuileries Garden, along the Champs-Élysées to the Arc de Triomphe, and in a direct line to the Grande Arche.

The distance from the Arc de Triomphe to La Grande Arche (as seen below) is exactly 4 kilometers (2.48 miles).

Grande arche from the arc de triomphe
From the Arc de Triomphe / Asaber91 /

6. It forms a secondary axis with famous Paris landmarks

If we look at the Grande Arche from a different perspective we can see that it also forms a secondary axis with some of the most famous and tallest landmarks in the city.

The Grande Arche is connected in a straight line with the Eiffel Tower and the Tour Montparnasse as well!

Paris aerial view
View from the Montparnasse with the Grande Arche behind the Eiffel Tower. / Source

7. It was designed with a prestressed concrete frame

The Grande Arche is huge and its design is stunning. You have to stand directly below it to get a glimpse of its huge size. The frame of the Grande Arche was made out of prestressed concrete and its exterior is covered with glass and Bethel granite.

One of the most fascinating features of the Grande Arche though is the external lifts that bring visitors to the top of the Arch and observation platform.

A pretty amazing ride to take!

Grande Arche lifts
Outdoor lifts of the Grande Arche / Source

8. It was originally covered in white Italian marble tiles

The moment the Grande Arche was inaugurated, Italian Carrara marble tiles were used to cover its exterior. Because these proved to be quite fragile, they have since been replaced with solid granite.

Because of this, the building was closed to visitors from 2010 until it opened its doors again in the year 2017.

The arch is covered with granite tiles
The arch is covered with granite tiles / Source

9. The arch was turned at a slight angle

One of the most fascinating Grande Arche facts is that the building was purposely turned at an angle of 6.33 degrees about its vertical axis. This wasn’t an engineering mistake as with the Leaning Tower of Pisa though!

The main reason was that there’s a Métro station, an RER station, and a motorway all running right below the arch. It had to be in this position to be located directly on the Axe Historique. Therefore, the only way to accommodate its huge foundations was to turn it at this angle.

This turned out to be a great move because it enhanced the perspective and depth of the arch, which is supposed to be a hypercube projected onto the three-dimensional world.

At the same time, this angle is about the same as the turn of the Louvre at the other end of the Axe Historique. What an amazing coincidence, don’t you think?!

Slight angle of the grande arch
Slight angle of the arch. / coldcreation /

10. Its rooftop offers some of the most amazing views of Paris

The rooftop of the Grande Arche is open for visitors and offers some of the most amazing views in all of Paris! And it should as it took 7 years to complete the renovation works.

Do you want to take a ride in the amazing external lifts and catch some of the best views of the city of Paris? Then the Grande Arche is the place to go!

Grande Arche View in the daytime

View towards the Arc de Triomphe from the Grande Arche rooftop
View towards the Arc de Triomphe from the Grande Arche rooftop. / Wiki Commons

Grande Arche view at night

Grande Arche view at night
View from arch at night. / /