A ground-breaking vision for the high-rise of the future
TEXT: KATIE TURNER | PHOTOS: L’AUTRE IMAGE
Erupting onto the Paris skyline in 2022 is the Hekla Tower: the aim of the build, to balance out the current line-up of high-rises in the La Defense business district. Named after an Icelandic volcano and with a design featuring twisting shards of glass and metal over the top floors, it brings drama and innovation to the site. “We are changing how this incredible city looks and so the building has to be iconic,” says Patrick Bosque, the head of development at Hines in France. “No half-measures.”
Designed by one of France’s leading architects, Jean Nouvel, the tower, at 220 metres tall, will have room for 5,800 people working in environmentally sound workspaces. It is located mere moments from the area’s public transport infrastructure, and on foot you’ll be able to reach it via a converted road interchange, soon to be transformed into a leafy walkway inspired by New York’s High Line.
“We were very keen to work with Jean Nouvel’s practice: we couldn’t really believe this French architectural giant hadn’t already made his mark here. The first time we sat down to discuss the vision for the building, we were in a cafe in the centre of Paris. The Hekla Tower is more or less as it was sketched at that very first meeting. That’s mind-blowing for such a massive project. But then it is a superb design,” smiles Bosque.
High-rise of the future
Behind the bold development is Hines, one of the world’s leading property investors, which already has ventures in 214 cities across 14 countries. In Europe, these stretch from Ireland in the west as far as Greece in the east, with sustainability a key driver of the company’s success. Their partner on the Hekla Tower project is AG Real Estate, one of France’s leading commercial real-estate promotion and investment firms, who knows the complex local market inside out.
After 23 years with Hines, Bosque has lost none of the enthusiasm which brought him to a career in development in the first place, “What’s really amazing about what I do is that the sites we develop, and the buildings that go up, will be there for generations. We still recognise and talk about Haussmann as the man who developed Paris. That’s my vision for the Hekla Tower: that it’ll be talked about years from now. One thing is for sure: it will long outlive either you or I!”
For the project, Hines and AG Real Estate brought on board six young entrepreneurs known as ‘The Creatives’. This group worked alongside Jean Nouvel’s team to reimagine working in the high-rise of the future. The brief? To work their specialist areas: accessibility; food; AI; design; philosophy and sport. They’ve thought in-depth about how people will move, eat and work in the decades to come. “What’s vital is that we shape and influence, not just the Hekla Tower itself, but the lives of those inside and outside the building over the long term,” says Bosque.
Welness centre and roof garden
Of the tower’s 48 floors, 39 will be given over to office space. The rest will feature an auditorium, an expansive lobby leading onto a square at ground level, and another leading onto the external walkway. The health and well-being of those working inside is given top priority, with both a fitness and a wellness centre at the heart of the design concept. If you need fresh air and a breathtaking view, you’ll hit the sweet spot in the roof garden, and on most floors you’ll be able to make the most of the outdoors with covered balconies and terraces all the way up. All this while striving for the very highest standards in environmental design and certification. No wonder the property is already aquired by Amundi and Primonial.
The La Defense district of Paris has always been synonymous with a modern vision of France and will need new architecture to take it into the future, though it’s already a hub for hundreds of French and international businesses.
“Setting yourself a challenge”
So how did Hines and AG Real Estate settle on a location on such a crowded site? “This is what’s known as a ‘pure development’ project. We identified the site and put forward a proposal based on what we’d seen. Finding space was tough and we’ll even be rerouting a road here, plus we’re on a tight deadline for 2022. But that’s what’s called setting yourself a challenge,” explains Bosque.
There’s no doubting his commitment: “I’m absolutely passionate about what I do, it’s a huge responsibility. There’s a lot of professional heartache, because not every plan comes to fruition. But when you get the go-ahead for something as ambitious as the Hekla Tower, you feel it’s all been worth it.”