La Défense, a Paris district, 5km west of downtown Paris City. It is the largest business district in Europe with more than 3 million square meters of offices and shopping centers. The development of La Défense in the perspective of Champs Elysees and Arc de Triomphe is a typical example of Paris planned urban development.
At the end of the first World War, plans were made to develop the axis from the Arc de Triomphe at the Etoile to La Défense, an area at the west edge of the center of Paris.
In 1931, the authorities organized a competition with the intent to limit the height of the buildings along the Triumphal Way. Only at the end of the long avenue, at the Défense, were towers allowed. This was recommended by the authorities as towers close to the center would obstruct the view on the Etoile.
The project to build the ‘Grande Arche’ was initiated by French president Mitterrand. He wanted a 20th century version of the Arc de Triomphe. The design of Danish architect Otto von Spreckelsen looks more like a cube-shaped building than a triumphal arch. It is a 106 meters (348 ft) white building with the middle part left open. The sides of the cube contain offices. Taking an elevator to the top of the Arche de la Défense offers a nice view of the city center which is only 5kms away.
A pedestrian district with underground car traffic, La Défense displays splendid architecture, including the CNIT and the Grande Arche. With headquarters of companies such as IBM, Total, Axa, EDF, GDF Suez and Areva, La Défense is a European economic powerhouse. Les Quatre Temps is one of the best and largest Paris shopping malls.
La Défense is easily accessible with Metro line 1 and RER A from Paris.