Saturday, August 30, 2008

High Hopes

When I was a kid, I used to beg my parents to drive me through downtown Minneapolis. I loved looking up at all the tall buildings. For a young kid from the suburbs, the grandeur and impressiveness of those structures inspired countless daydreams and aspirations for life in the big city. Today, I drive, walk, and bus myself through downtown, and while our skyline pales in comparison to those of New York or Chicago, I still get that feeling of awe when I see those skyscrapers soaring into the air. After months of going without, the buildings of Minneapolis have been a welcome rediscovery.

While the beautiful and historic center of Paris is thankfully protected from certain forms of new construction such as skyscrapers, the outskirts have seen the appearance of a handful of tall buildings. Unfortunately, most of these attempts have been aesthetic disasters. The most famous skyscraper in Paris is probably the Tour Montparnasse; a dark, depressing tower that, while providing a beautiful view of Paris from the top floor, mars the view from the ground. La Defense has a spattering of tall buildings; some good-looking, others not. None are very tall or impressive. Random, lonely skyscrapers dot the rest of the Parisian outskirts, looking like awkward out-of-towners. Most of Paris is architecturally gorgeous, but these obvious exceptions made me long for the Minneapolis skyline, nicely captured in this photo.

When I was in Paris, there was a lot of talk about plans for future out-croppings of tall office buildings in the environs of the city. While recognizing a general Parisian dislike of les gratte-ciel, this article in Le Monde (sorry, both of these are only readable to the Francophones out there, but the first one has a cool picture that works in any language!) demonstrates that support for such a movement is out there. On the other hand, I'm sure that in true French style there will be plenty of protesters fighting against their realization if the plans ever go through. I don't really care what the local officials decide to do regarding new skyscrapers in Paris, just so long as they don't rehire the guys who built the old ones.

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