In Europe, skyscrapers are still popular

In Europe, skyscrapers are still popular

More open, more mixed… and always taller: office towers continue to rise from the ground in European metropolises, even as their opponents tarnish their unsightly and timeless appearance.

With a height of 330 meters, it will be the tallest skyscraper in Western Europe: the construction of the Madrid Norte tower should begin in 2025 without causing controversy in the Spanish capital. The “skyline” of northern Madrid, already made up of five highly recognizable skyscrapers, is instead a source of pride there.

Far from the debates in Paris or Berlin, the tower plans are fiercely opposed.

In Paris, the unassuming September opening of the Duomo Towers, designed by star architect Jean Nouvel, symbolizes the appetite for skyscrapers.

Mayor Anne Hidalgo faces opposition from her environmentalist and right-wing allies, who see the projects as energy-intensive and unsightly, and have forced other projects to be abandoned or scaled back.

A symbol of material sensibility, the Hecla Tower opened where the business district of La Défense – again designed by Jean Nouvel – launched the “State Public for the Transformation of Towers” ​​in early December. Carbon Impact.

In Berlin, residents and political figures criticized plans for a 140-meter-tall office tower that would house giant Amazon’s German headquarters, accusing it of encouraging gentrification, among other things.

– Controversies –

“If you have discussions in Germany, they are sociological and political rather than related to planning”, underlines Hermann Horster, Head of ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance Criteria) at BNP Real Estate.

“We are going to discuss the mode + Do we still need these huge towers from the imaginations of male architects? +”, Mr. Horster explains.

“Today, it is very difficult for the population to accept projects that have a strong urban impact. And the more the project affects, the more protests, the more disputes…”, Judge Olivier Esteve, CEO of subsidiary French property company Covivio.

But skyscrapers, or “IGH” for “tall buildings” in corporate real estate jargon, continue to proliferate in European business districts.

“You have to see what happens in London, where towers are popular because they’re always in the heart of London, in the city, and services are pushed to the max,” says Vincent. Bollard is France director of Knight Frank, a British firm specializing in commercial real estate.

Catering, sports halls and above all balconies, terraces and other open spaces are especially in demand.

“It’s a real revolution, because before, the base of the tower was the only outdoor space. You had 80 smokers permanently in front of you,” says Yannis de Francesco, director of the Ile-de-France office. de-France of the commercial real estate specialist JLL.

– green arguments –

“We also think about well-being: it’s the services, it’s the light, it’s the size of the trays, the free height, the smooth movement that integrates everything…”, lists Vincent Bolert.

Because the towers, despite their energy-intensive nature, present ecological arguments: they are often close to city centers and well served by public transport, unlike the “complexes” that prevailed in the 2000s.

In an era marked by the shock of the September 11, 2001, attacks in New York, “there was a real panic of high-rises, so we were very guarded and not very focused on the high-rise,” recalls Ingrid Nappi. , professor at the Ecole des Ponts.

More recently, the pandemic has increased fears about elevators. “All crises challenge towers,” he says.

Skyscrapers also limit the artificialization of soil that harms the city and the climate, and the most iconic collect more or less recognized environmental quality labels: Leed, Well, Breeam, HQE…

They want to be pioneers in the mix of applications.

Thus the futuristic – and controversial – triangular tower in the south of Paris, which, in addition to offices, includes a hotel, a nursery and shops, is designed to be “reversible”, meaning that it can easily be converted into housing.

This is also the case with the FOUR Frankfurt project in the German metropolis, where four towers are housing, including assisted living, to give life to the business district.

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