In Europe, skyscrapers are still popular
At 330 meters high, it will be the tallest skyscraper in Western Europe: the construction of the Madrid Norte tower should begin in 2025 in the Spanish capital, without causing controversy. The “skyline” of northern Madrid, which already consists of five very prominent skyscrapers, is rather a source of pride there.
Far from the debates in Paris or Berlin, where tower projects are fiercely opposed.
In Paris, the inauguration in September, without much pomp, of the Duo tower, designed by star architect Jean Nouvel, symbolized the lack of appetite for skyscrapers.
Mayor Anne Hidalgo faced opposition from her environmentalist and right-wing allies, who considered these projects energy-intensive and unsightly, and forced her to abandon or scale back other projects.
A sign of the sensitivity of the subject, the business district of La Défense, where the Hekla tower was inaugurated – redesigned by Jean Nouvel – launched at the beginning of December the “General States of the transformation of the towers” to reduce their carbon impact.
In Berlin, residents and politicians criticize a 140-meter high office tower project, which will house the German headquarters of the giant Amazon, accusing it, among other things, of promoting gentrification.
” If you have debates in Germany, they are more sociological and political than related to planning“, emphasizes Hermann Horster, manager of ESG (environmental, social and governance criteria) at BNP Real Estate.
” We will discuss the mode +do we still want these huge towers from the fantasies of male architects?+“, details of Mr. Horster.
” Acceptance, today, of projects that have a strong impact on the city’s population, is more difficult. And the more affected the project, the more opposition, controversy…“, Judge Olivier Estève, Deputy Managing Director of the French property company Covivio.
But skyscrapers, or “IGH” for “tall buildings” in corporate real estate jargon, continue to proliferate in Europe’s business districts.
” We just have to see what can happen in London, where the towers are famous, always because they are in the center of London, in the City, and because there is a level of service that is pushed to its maximum.“Said Vincent Bollaert, France Director of Knight Frank, a British company specializing in commercial real estate.
Catering, sports halls and above all balconies, terraces and other open-air spaces are particularly in demand.
” That’s a real revolution, because before, the only outdoor space was the base of the tower. You have 80 smokers permanently in front“, said Yannis de Francesco, director of the Offices Ile-de-France agency of business real estate specialist JLL.
” We also think about the comfort: it is the services, it is the light, it is the size of the trays, the free height, combining all the soft mobility…“, enumerates Vincent Bollaert.
Because the towers, despite their energy-intensive nature, also make ecological arguments: they are often close to city centers and therefore well served by public transport, unlike those “campus” trend in the 2000s.
In a period marked by the trauma of the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York, there was really panic in the tall towers, so we raised the security more and not so much in the tallest tower.“, recalls Ingrid Nappi, professor at the Ecole des Ponts.
Recently, the pandemic has raised fears about elevators. “All crises challenge the towers,” he said.
Skyscrapers also limit the artificialization of soils, which is harmful for the city and the climate, and the most famous collect more or less recognized environmental quality labels: Leed, Well, Breeam, HQE, etc.
They also want to be pioneers in the mix of uses
So the future – and controversial – Triangle Tower in the south of Paris, which includes, in addition to offices, a hotel, a nursery and shops, is designed as “reversible”, meaning that it can easily be converted into housing.
This is also the case of the FOUR Frankfurt project in the German metropolis, its four towers will also include housing, including assisted housing, to give life to the business district.