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Saving the city's heritage and environment
Articles out of France:
  • New York Times In a City Wary of Skyscrapers, a New Tower May Rise.
  • The Telegraph : Paris mayor's skyscraper plan rejected by councillors.

    Overseas Leaders Defending Paris's Quality of Life :

    Mary Campbell Gallagher website (New York, U.S.A.)
    Website and blog of Charles Siegel (California, U.S.A.)
    Urban lovers Dedicated to all those who live and love the Traditional City...
    Bonjour Paris Guide to Paris France, Hotels, Restaurants, Food, Wine, and Culture.
    David Brussat article in Architecture Here and There Blog

    If you are a Paris lover and have a website or blog defending quality of life, please add your link to this list.


    July 2013:

    Parisian skyscrapers raise sky-high concerns, by John Laurenson in Marketplace

    As the link, depending of your browser, show a text or the radio broadcast, here are both:
    A hundred and twenty years ago, the English artist William Morris was asked why, in Paris, he spent so much time at the Eiffel Tower. “It is,” he explained, “the only place I can’t see it from.”
    Today he’d probably choose the Tour Montparnasse that rises like a 59-story black gravestone where once was a neighborhood of political dreamers, artists and poets. After they built this office block in 1973, the outcry was so loud, the city banned new buildings over seven stories high. But Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoé overturned that ban in 2008 outside the city center at least.
    And now the first of 12 new skyscrapers are about to be built. Jérôme Coumet, the young mayor of Paris’s 13th district, is excited that some of the new skyscrapers -- including one by star French architect Jean Nouvel -- will be going up in his part of town. “A city is something that constantly renews itself,” says Coumet in the
    L’Autre Image courtesy of Renzo Piano Building Workshop
    Renzo Piano's future Palais de Justice
    office of his fine 19th century town hall. “Paris attracts more tourists than any other city in the world.” And he doesn’t think it’s a bad thing that much of Paris is, as he puts it, “a museum city.” But, he adds: “I’m convinced that just as people go to visit the new parts of London, people will come to see extraordinary new architecture in Paris. French architects work all over the world. They should also be able to express themselves in Paris.”
    Up in the north of Paris, for example, it’s the Italian architect Renzo Piano who is about to express himself with a skyscraper made of four steel and glass boxes placed on top of each other. He was one of the architects who designed the Pompidou Art Centre (the one with the escalator and the pipes on the outside) and the Shard, the building that now dwarfs London’s Tower Bridge.
    Coumet says Paris is not about to become Dubai. The new 590-foot height limit is a good deal lower than the Eiffel Tower. But members of the anti-skyscraper group SOS Paris say high-rise office space doesn’t make sense economically. Bertrand Sauzay used to be the real-estate director of the 20 billion dollar a year telecom equipment company Alcatel. He studied moving their headquarters into three skyscrapers in the business district west of Paris. The experience turned him into an anti-skyscraper campaigner. “They cost a lot to build, to manage, and to destroy them at the end -- to demolish them properly with the new regulations,” he says.
    Instead his company chose to renovate its old headquarters in the city center. Which could have been a good call for another reason. Maybe companies are just not going to need huge head offices in the future. “Office work is destined to disappear,” says philosopher Thierry Paquot, head of an urban studies institute at Paris University and author of a recent book called “La Folie des Hauteurs” or Height Madness. “We’re already contracting out a lot of paperwork -- accounting for example -- to workers in countries like India and Morocco. Every manager has his smartphone and does his own correspondence,” says Paquot.
    The world of work is undergoing a huge transformation, he says. “More and more people are going to work at home or in cafés. When they have to meet, they’ll do so not in a skyscraper but somewhere really nice." Like by the Square des Batignolles, for example, where handsome seven-story, grey-stone buildings with slate roofs look down on a little park. It's right next to where Renzo Piano’s putting up his glass boxes.
    For urban studies philosopher Thierry Paquot, homes like these are the offices of tomorrow...and the glass tower is the thing of the past.


    January 2013:

    At the beginning of this new year, the governing team of SOS Paris and I, would like to express to all of you our best wishes for 2013, in hopes that this year will

    40th anniversary
    of SOS Paris

    Editorial Bulletin 87

    by the president,
    Olivier de Monicault
    be a good one for the Paris that has been entrusted to us and which we will leave to future generations.

    SOS Paris will soon celebrate it's 40th birthday! You may have the impression that our goals are less spectacular than those of the past.

    That is due, in particular, to a profound change in the concept of heritage protection. Throughout the 19th century, with Mérimée, Victor Hugo and Viollet-le-Duc, and, even more recently, attention was focused almost exclusively on saving “Monuments” and efforts were limited to that type of protection (for example, sites listed as historic monuments). And that is how Notre Dame was restored during that period, while at the same time, its surroundings were completely destroyed.

    This opinion is still widely shared and many people believe that our Parisian heritage is well protected, because important monuments are no longer threatened. At worst, they are poorly maintained.

    That is partially true, although, 50 years ago, monuments as important as the Halles de Baltard or the Palais Rose were thoughtlessly destroyed. And, more recently, we were reminded by the debates concerning the Hotel Lambert and the Hôtel de la Marine, that even major monuments could be threatened.

    In fact, protecting our heritage also includes a concern for the surroundings of the Monuments, the homogeneity of urban developments, the harmony of the buildings, and the proper integration of contemporary constructions into the architectural fabric of Paris.

    Thus, we must be concerned with more modest buildings, which contribute to the image and charm of our capital, just as we must refuse provocative contemporary architecture. We must be careful to preserve that which makes up the uniqueness of Paris. Our most important goal is avoiding the trivialization of Paris. Such action is probably less spectacular and, as we have seen, less inspiring.

    That is why we are fighting against the tower projects, against break-away architecture (like the Samaritaine project, rue de Rivoli), against damage to the landscapes (the banks of the Seine) and the green spaces (the Serres d'Auteuil) and for the preservation of numerous small buildings that are integral parts of the Paris that has been entrusted to us and which we will leave to future generations.

    During our battles, we come up against the City Hall of Paris. It is true that they have spent a great deal of money to save Monuments like the Saint Jacques Tower or Saint Sulpice – and we commend them for doing so – but, in the name of a poorly understood version of modernity, they do not respect those things which make Paris a unique city, resembling no other.

    We would hope that City Hall be truly willing to listen to Parisians on this subject; indeed, the people of the city should be heard when they give voice to their vision of the Paris in which they wish to live. For example, when a public consultation was held, although 63 % of Parisians expressed their desire to have NO towers, City Hall has circumvented their wishes. In the same fashion, when an alternate project for the extension of Roland Garros was proposed, City Hall did not even deign to answer. Is this what is called a democratic dialog ?

    Finally, to illustrate my point, I would like to draw your attention again to two recent cases: the Banque Postale has just restored the hôtel de Choiseul-Praslin and LVMH is restoring the Samaritaine buildings designed by Sauvage and Jourdain. We have every cause to be pleased, and we commend them for the care they are giving to those monuments. Unfortunately, however, in both cases, the immediate surroundings have been sacrificed in favor of incongruous contemporary constructions with no respect whatsoever for the harmony of the neighborhood as a whole.

    Olivier de Monicault , President of SOS Paris
    (trans. Elizabeth Dutertre and Jan Wyers)


    December 2012:

  • Letter-writing campaign to the Mayor of Paris
  • Demo anti Tour Triangle

  • September 2012:

    Demo anti Tour Triangle after the announce in Paris-Expat.com

  • August 2012:


  • June 2012:

  • In its editorial on April 27, the newspaper Le Monde pronounced itself wholeheartedly in favor of once again building tower projects inside Paris. That being an extremely controversial subject, we sent the paper a response, and it was published in the Letters to the Editor on May 3rd. The text is below. In addition, Le Figaro, which we contacted, featured our arguments in an article devoted to the debate surrounding skyscrapers in Paris on May 2nd.


    All over the world, as great cities develop, they struggle to reconcile preserving their historic heritage and respecting the urban landscape with recognizing the requirements of modern life. Paris is not immune: imprisoned within administrative limits set in 1860, among the most densely populated of the great cities of the world, with little open, green, space per inhabitant, Paris lacks buildable land for housing and community services.

    The City believes it has found a solution in reviving the idea of building towers, conveniently forgetting that Parisians are adamantly against towers. Mr. Delanoë sent them a survey on the subject in 2004, and, in reply to a leading question concerning resuming construction of “well located” very tall buildings “of excellent architectural quality,” 62% of Parisians answered No! Far from being the self-serving refusal of the conservative, privileged upper-middle classes, or of bohemian bourgeois wary of change and solicitous of protecting their own communities with their unaffordable housing prices, this “No” demonstrates a sincere desire that development in Paris should be on a human scale and respectful of the Paris that is our heritage.

    The return of towers is neither fated nor a necessary condition of modernity. The entire capitol of the United States, Washington, D.C., has a height limit, as does Rome and, to a lesser extent, New Delhi. Those cities are doubtless called “noncompetitive” by the proponents of very tall buildings.

    The principal issue in the debate is not aesthetic, especially since, often, aesthetics means only fashion. If millions of tourists choose to visit Paris year after year, it is not in hopes of finding a second Manhattan! What is more, by designating the Banks of the Seine as a World Heritage Site, UNESCO has in fact emphasized the exceptional and harmonious character of the Parisian cityscape. The recent response of UNESCO to towers in London and St. Petersburg shows that UNESCO will not hesitate to withdraw the designation when a heritage site is degraded.

    For several decades now, the population of Paris has been declining, principally because of the cost of housing and the lack of affordable new apartments. Offices have forced out artisanal and industrial activities, as well as small shops. Paris is gradually becoming a deluxe bedroom community, a prestigious administrative center, and a tourist attraction. But towers for housing are no solution because, without huge subsidies, the cost of construction and maintenance will turn them into luxury buildings. Moreover, our suburban experiments with tall buildings that offer low-cost, subsidized, housing have been, to say the least, a painful failure. But the towers in Paris that concern us today (Masséna, Batignolles and the Tour Triangle) are essentially office buildings or hotels, not apartments. Public transportation is insufficient.

    Planting bits of greenery on or around the towers will not make them ecologically sustainable. By their very nature, towers are enormous energy guzzlers. Besides, experience has shown that towers are a poisoned gift for future generations because, after forty years, they must either be rebuilt to new standards or else torn down. The French way of siting towers in parkland (as opposed to the system in Manhattan of building towers that touch each other) has already demonstrated its limitations, as shown, for example, by the failure of the slab of the Front de Seine in the 15th arrondissement and the unsatisfactory treatment of the feet of those towers. The new projects would repeat those same mistakes.

    A city does not become modern by destroying historic buildings whose qualities of construction, insulation, decency and humanity require no demonstration. To be modern in Paris does not mean promoting an architecture of rupture (in the present case, towers with "audacious” designs), or building just anything just anywhere, even when purportedly justified by the celebrity of well-known architects. I am by no means defending pastiche, but contemporary architecture must fit harmoniously into the existing framework and must have for its main concerns quality of life and the human dimension. Let us all keep in mind that our city's heritage is a nonrenewable resource.
    Olivier de Monicault , President of SOS Paris
    (trans. Elizabeth Dutertre and Mary Campbell Gallagher)


  • March 2012:

  • Expert Groups Warn about towers in Paris
    CEU White Paper on Three Paris Projects
    FINAL CEU and SOS Paris News Release
    Full Study from CEU (From another source if above does not works).


  • January 2012:

  • With heartfelt thanks to our supporting members Elisabeth Dutertre in Paris and Mary Campbell Gallagher in New York, we offer you for the first time a translation in English of the editorial of our latest bulletin nr. 83. More will follow, we hope!

    The causes of threats to the heritage of Paris, indeed, of vandalism, are legion: the age of the buildings and lack of routine maintenance, untenanted premises, real estate speculation, a dearth of buildable land for necessary social services, indifference, or even stupidity. Here, I suggest another sort of threat, which I call Doctrinaire Vandalism.

    Many people, in perfect good faith, and correctly, believe that Paris is a living, active city, that it must change and grow, and that it should not become a museum city. They may not use this in as doctrinaire a way as during President Pompidou's administration, when the ideal of a tabula rasa was the fashion, but for them, the systematic destruction of old buildings ("monuments" excepted) to make way for often provocative contemporary structures with little respect for their surroundings is too often the rule. Because they are often insensitive to the harmony of an architectural ensemble, they do not challenge dismantling it. This insensitivity contributes, for example, to undervaluing 19th-century architecture, which is still too often unloved and thus willingly sacrificed.

    Far be it from us to want to freeze Paris, or to say that everything in it must be systematically preserved. Paris cannot be transformed into a museum city: if certain neighborhoods must be preserved in their entirety (such as the Île Saint Louis and certain central areas), in others, only the spirit should be kept. But Paris must not risk making itself into just any other city by accepting anything-goes architecture.

    Granted, construction within Paris must continue, which obviously implies demolition. We are not fans of "facadism" or pastiches, but we strongly object to the tendency of one current of contemporary architecture that does not hesitate to build almost anything, almost anywhere. New structures must blend into the Parisian landscape and respect all the elements that contribute to the distinctiveness of Paris (height, materials, colors, design... ).

    Thus we vigorously oppose building towers in Paris. We have presented our arguments, which are not based simply on aesthetic considerations, over and over again. Today, I will speak only of the assault on the horizon of Paris. Although Parisians have, time and again, clearly expressed their opposition, the threat grows daily with the "Tour Triangle" (Triangle Tower), and with projects in the Batignolles sector to the West and Masséna to the East.

    Architects too often seek to make their mark with "monumental" structures, when all that is asked of them is to create work that is resolutely contemporary, to be sure, but nonetheless in harmony with its surroundings. Aiming to assert themselves, they advocate architecture that is entirely distinct. It flatters their egos, but it disfigures Paris.

    Those same people who most strenuously argue the cause of contemporary architecture often lack respect for earlier masterpieces of modern architecture. Thus, almost 50 years ago, the unchallenged masterpiece of architecture in metal, les Halles, by Baltard, was destroyed. And the Halle Freyssinet (an innovative masterpiece of architecture in concrete), which narrowly missed being completely demolished, today risks being disfigured by a disastrous amputation.
    Olivier de Monicault , President of SOS Paris
    (trans. Elizabeth Dutertre and Mary Campbell Gallagher)


  • November 2011:

  • C.E.U. council for european urbanism news


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