London has its ‘Gherkin’ but Parisians are turning up their noses at skyscraping ‘Brie’

Outraged Parisians have launched a last-ditch attempt to halt the construction of a €700-million skyscraper that has been likened to a “giant piece of brie”.

Architectural purists say the “Triangle Tour” – set to be built this year within the peripherique, or boundary of central Paris – will destroy the city’s skyline, and damage its environment and economy.

Plans for the tower, which has been compared to Shard in London, were approved more than a decade ago but construction has been repeatedly delayed amid complaints from architectural associations, activists and some officials.

The 42-story building, designed by Swiss architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron – and backed by Europe’s largest property group, Unibail Rodamco – is meant to include office spaces, a four-star hotel, a cultural centre and health facility.

“It’s like a big piece of brie in the sky that can be seen from everywhere … and that’s a problem,” said Didier Rykner, an art historian and founder of the magazine Tribune de l’Art. “I prefer the real cheese.”

Télérama, the French news magazine, panned the project as “an outdated, ecologically absurd project being built out of place.”

This month, a court overturned previous rulings that had blocked developers from getting planning permission, paving the way for building to start before the end of the year.

But opponents are still gearing up for two final efforts to keep construction grounded.

Controversy has divided political Left

The first comes from Philippe Goujon, the conservative mayor of the 15th arrondissement – where construction is set to take place. Mr Goujon said he planned to formally ask for the “dated” project’s postponement at a Paris city council meeting this week.

The second hope to put an end to the tower comes from a preliminary investigation by prosecutors into suspicions of “favoritism” by the Paris mayor’s office towards Viparis, the company that manages the site at the Porte de Versailles, where construction is set to take place.

"Mathematically, there is a majority against this project,” Emile Meunier, a member of France’s Green Party and chairman of the urban planning and housing commission, told AFP. “It would be a shame if we can’t find them.”

The tower has created an unusual divide within the political Left, with members of the Green Party firmly against a project backed by Anne Hidalgo, the socialist mayor of Paris.

The project’s backers assert it will “be an asset for the economic development and influence of the capital” by generating “more than 5,000 jobs during its construction”.

An artist's impression of the Tour Triangle. The building has been likened to the Shard in London

Critics, however, say the reverse is true. “This project has been a scandal from the beginning,” said Christine Nedelec, the president of the campaign group SOS Paris, adding it would create “an economical and ecological disaster.”

According to the group, the city already hosts 1.5 million square metres of empty office space.

The association also estimates that it would take “three to four times more concrete and steel” to build the tower compared to a conventional Parisian building. The irregular shape of the tower means it would also require higher energy consumption. “It’s like a boiler that needs to be on full blast at all times,” said Ms Nedelec.

The triangular high-rise is set to be the city’s largest skyscraper since the Montparnasse tower was built in 1973.

Parisians have a history of being wary of skyscrapers. A recent survey found that 62 percent of Parisians are opposed to skyscrapers, which many say disrupts the city’s classical Hausmannian architecture.

Two of the city’s most iconic monuments – the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre Pyramid – faced significant backlash before eventually being embraced.

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