Recession kills Paris skyscraper project

Plans to build a super skyscraper just metres short of the height of the Eiffel Tower in Paris' business district have fallen through, the tower's French architect, Jean Nouvel, announced Friday, through lack of investment due to the economic crisis.


AFP - French star architect Jean Nouvel said Thursday that plans to build a high-tech skyscraper on the edge of Paris were put on hold after investors hard-hit by the global slowdown grew nervous.

Nouvel won the contract to build the modern concrete, glass and steel Signal Tower in 2008 as part of an ambitious plan to rejuvenate La Defense, the drab business district on Paris's western edge.

"The project will become a reality once the economic crisis has eased," Nouvel said in a statement.

The EPAD public authority managing La Defense said Nouvel had notified them in writing that he had shelved the project, which had been touted as the most important architectural undertaking since the Eiffel Tower.

"We received a letter from Nouvel's firm informing us that he was abandoning the Signal Tower project, due to a lack of investment," said Joelle Ceccaldi-Raynaud, president of the EPAD.

"It's a surprise because I thought that Jean Nouvel would succeed in finding an investor. Maybe the operation costs were such that it was too hard to find an investor," she said.

Nouvel said he had not scrapped the project altogether but acknowledged that "the real estate crisis is such that all current large-scale development projects are running behind.

"Investors who are financing these projects are not planning to build immediately," he said, adding that in two or three years, the project could once again become attractive for investors.

Spanish group Medea had signed up to be the prime financial backer of the project but it pulled out during the global crisis that hit the Spanish real estate market head-on.

"We went to Qatar, Kuwait, and there is money there. We tried to find some but didn't," said Philippe Caix, EPAD's managing director.

Winner of the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize, the industry's top award, Nouvel had beat out top architects from Britain and the United States with his vision of a towering skyscraper of nearly 100 storeys.

The building would have been just a few metres short of the Eiffel Tower.

The 600-million-euro (800-million-dollar) project, slated for completion in 2013, featured offices, luxury apartments and shops.

It was a key fixture of a development plan championed by President Nicolas Sarkozy who has set his sights on creating a Greater Paris, a 21st century metropolis to rival London, New York and Tokyo.

It was the second time that a skyscraper project designed by Nouvel was shelved. In the early 1990s he designed a 400-metre skyscraper, the "Tower Without End," for La Defense but it was never built.

Nouvel is the creative mind behind several architectural gems all over the world, from Japan to the United States, but in France, he is best know for the Arab World Institute and the Quai Branly museum of tribal arts, both in Paris.

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