Developers unveiled a curving skyscraper design on Monday, rivalling the Eiffel Tower in height and echoing London's famous "Gherkin", as the centrepiece of a redevelopment of Paris's La Defence business district.
The design, by U.S. architect Thom Mayne, was selected last week ahead of proposals from nine other star architects including Norman Foster and Rem Koolhaas of the Netherlands and is expected to be completed in 2012.
It is intended to be one of the most significant construction projects in Paris since former President Francois Mitterrand's ambitious "Grands Travaux" developments of the 1980s including the Louvre's glass pyramid or the National Library.
"It's about an icon, and one of the major buildings in Paris," Mayne told reporters.
The 300 metre tall structure will be one of the highest buildings in Paris, rivalling the Eiffel Tower, which is 324 m tall, including its antennas. But Mayne said he wanted to retain a human dimension to the design.
"There's a fluidity, a sensuousness, a softness to the form as it reaches to the sky," he said, describing the asymmetric twist of the building, which swells out over an elevated lobby in the lower portion before tapering off to a thicket of wind turbines on the roof.
La Defence, a somewhat bleak 160 hectare development of banks, company headquarters and office buildings just outside the city of Paris proper is to undergo major shake up that will involve around a fifth of the buildings being redeveloped.
The overhaul reflects worries that Paris has been losing business to rival cities including London and Milan and offers a chance to create a tower to match developments like Foster's glass Swiss Re building in the City of London, nicknamed the "Gherkin"
With strict height restrictions on buildings in Paris itself, skyscrapers are largely restricted to areas like La Defence but Mayne's "Phare" ("lighthouse") development will stand out clearly over the city skyline.
The building, which will cost the developers Unibail an estimated 800 million euros (542,000 pounds) to build, will house some 130,000 square metres of office space.
But Mayne said it would also be "a prototype for a green building" with a wind farm generating its own heating and cooling for five months of the year and a movable "double skin" to cut the heat from direct sunlight through the windows.
Unibail Chief Executive Guillaume Poitrinal said the project showed private sector developers were just as capable as the public sector of creating landmark buildings, even if it is dwarfed in height by mega developments in Asia.
"It's a real symbol of modernity but it's not a record tower, we're not trying to go to 800 metres. The idea is to have something which is modern and iconic rather than just high."