The Grand Axis of Paris began in the Tuileries Gardens in the seventeenth century and was projected beyond the River Seine in the twentieth century, becomig the pedestrian core of a major business district. It runs through the Arc de Triomphe and culminates in the Grand Arche, a hollow office building topped with an art gallery and viewing platform. Dan Kiley, the American landscape architect and garden designer, was responsible for a 0.5 mile stretch, the Dalle Centrale, between the River Seine and the Grand Arche. It is an exercise in classical modernism, embellished with water features and other works of art. Kiley wrote that 'It is filled with large pools of water animated by jets and waterfalls, shaded seating areas, earthen bocce courts and open-air cafes.. Above ground we planted long, linear bosques of pollarded London plane trees on either side of the corridor'.
He insisted on having all four rows of London plane. West of the Arche, a decked bridge extends the axis towards St-Germain-en-Laye.
"La Grande Arche"
Six kilometres out from the Arc de Triomphe at the far end of the Voie Triomphale, has put La Défense high on the list of places to which Paris visitors must pay homage. Created by a Danish architect, Johan-Otto von Spreckelson who won a competition called by the President Mitterrand, this hollowed-out cube, weighing 300,000 tons, 110m (352 ft) high and 70 meters (225 ft) wide (The whole of Notre-Dame cathedral would fit in its frame), was entitled "La Grande Arche".
This monument, dedicated to Fraternity, is built of concrete with a facing of Carrara marble and grey granite. On the esplanade are works by Takis, fountains, luminous signals and statues by Mirò. Various ministries have their offices in the massive supporting pillars, the human rights commission (Fondation des Droits de l'Homme) and major corporations have their office there. The Arche also includes a large exhibition hall.
Seated up above on the terrace one can admire the impeccable success of its perspective, whose lines can be followed to the Arc de Triomphe, along the Champs-Élysées to the obelisk on Place de la Concorde, over the Tuileries gardens to the Louvre's Cour Carrée, assuming that the weather is clear and the air free of polluting fumes.