The 14th Arrondisement hosted the vanguard of 1920s avant garde Paris. Writer Alice Toklas called it “the city of boulevard bars and Baudeloire”. Poet Guillaume Apollinaire went further: “a quarter of crazies”. Marianne Faithfull now calls it home, from riding in a sports car to missing the moon. Behind Georges-Eugène Haussmann’s homogeneity and square cut gentility lies the mysterious courtyard life of Paris played out under the shadow of Montparnasse Tower. It’s a 32 second lift ride to the 59th floor of the tower to view the sacred horizontality from the profane verticality.
The skyscraper was completed in 1973 to the design of Eugène Beaudouin, Urbain Cassan, Louis de Hoÿm de Marien and Jean Saubot. The tower’s height, all 210 metres, was not universally welcomed. It didn’t quite accord with Baron Haussmann’s rule that no building should be taller than the width of the boulevard on which it stood. Two years after Montparnasse Tower’s completion, President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing banned buildings over 32 metres in central Paris. In recent times, the limit has been relaxed to 50 metres but only on a case by case basis. Wallpaper* provides a contemporary reassessment, admiring the tower’s “wonderfully gridded curtain wall” before adding, “The redevelopment of the down-at-heel area around Gare Montparnasse in the early 1960s was, by and large, a piece of inspired city planning.”