Saturday, 8 April 2017

La Tour d'Occitanie

A few weeks ago the great project was revealed, Toulouse should boast a 150 meters skyscrapper around 2022. The project is absolutely beautiful. A vegetalized tower, a "spiraling garden" overlooking the lovely Canal du Midi, the Central Train Station and a revamped promenade (I refuse to call it "Ramblas" as the city council does, this is proud and beautiful France, not Catalonia...). Furthermore, it'll be the entry point to TESO (Toulouse Euro SudOuest), the future business district surrounding the train station. As someone that pretty loves modern, high quality, high rise buildings, I'm pretty excited with this project, though I'm afraid there will be many obstacles on its way (but it has already overcome a good deal of them!).

This project is conceived as a very much needed signal of architectural modernity in an open and prosperous city in which the mediocre architecture of the last 60 years has not lived up to the beautiful constructions of its past. It's a way to put the image of Toulouse (in modern architectonic terms) in line with those of Lille or Marseille (or even Lyon, but this gorgeous city plays at a different level, it's really like a small Paris). Each of these cities has at least one modern and beautiful "skyscrapper" (in France more than 100 ms can be considered like that) and is building a new one: the existing CGA-CGM tower and the new La Marseillaise tower conceived by Jean Nouvel in Marseille, the existing EuraLille towers and a new planned tower to host some administrative offices, the beautiful Tour Incity in Lyon (that also has some more planned)

In general the local reactions to this announcement have been quite positive, which has been rather surprising for a city so conservative when it comes to architecture, and infested by the kind of stupid "ecolos" that basically are against everything and still think that high-rise buildings damage the environment, when it's absolutely the contrary, modern high-rises are the most environment friendly kind of construction. The socialist party (in the opposition) has embraced the idea, and reminded us that it was them who included in the PLU (urban plan) the possiblity of building a 100 meters tower in Montaudran Aerospace (unfortunately for the moment promoters do not seem to be interested in this project, the crazy French security laws that apply to new buildings higher than 60 meters make them so expensive that only projects in very sought-after areas can be carried out). Many people see this like me, as a necessary architectural signal that will put Toulouse at the level it deservers

As for the negative reactions that we can read online, we have several types. Some of them are totally respectable. Some people do not like high-rise buildings due to their own personal sens of aesthetics. OK, I accept that, each one has a sense of aesthetics, I love gothic but I don't like renaissance that much, I love dark clothes and hate clear ones... So I love (well done) high-rises, but others don't. But most of the negative reactions are so fucking stupid...

  • Who's going to pay?. Well, it's not due to host any public institution, only private entities (Hotel, offices and appartments). It's private inverstors who are in charge of the project, the city council is not putting a single euro. On the other side, the roof top with amazing views over the city (and the Pyrenees in days of high visibility!) will be open to the public. So well, we are getting for free an architectonic landmark that will help to put the city on the spotligt and a public space like no other one in all of Southern France. Seems like a deal to me :-)
  • They better invest the money in improving people's quality of life. As I've said this is 100% private investment, so up to you to try to convince the promoters to invest their money in setting new bike lanes or public parks, I guess they'll consider people's smile and gratitude as a more than enough return of investment...
  • It does not match with the architecture of the city Oh, yes, that's true, it's what usually happens when something completely new is done, it's different from the rest. I guess the first wooden hut would feel pretty "unfitting" to the folks living in caves, and the same later with the first stone houses, the first glass windows and so on. If all these "experts in urban planning" and "ecolos" of today had lived centuries ago gothic cathedrals would have never been built because they didn't fit with the existing buildings and being so high and slim made them look like "phallic symbols"...

The main and recurrent complain (and I fully agree with such complain) is the English name, Occitanie Tower. This is France, and there is absolutely no reason to use an English name for something called to be a symbol of "notre ville". It's clear that Tour d'Occitanie makes much more sense. In Paris, you delight your eyes contemplating Notre Dame, not Our Lady. Furthermore, with the Brexit it's time to rethink the role of the English language in the European Union.

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