The Credit-Lyonnais Tower, renamed Lille Tower (Tour de Lille) in 2006, is one of the greatest architectural peculiarities of the Flanders’ capital. A 116-metre high peculiarity to be exact. But despite its shoe shape, it was never intended to be so named but is more the sum result of the complex equation posed to its “cobbler”: the architect Christian de Portzamparc.
Put yourself in the… shoes of the architect. Your mission: to construct a 120-metre high office tower. What could be simpler? A square base, or rectangular to add a bit of dash, with storeys stacked up until they reach the desired height. Now let’s complicate the equation: construct a 120-metre high office tower, 70 metres long, sitting prettily on foundations constricted by the passing train lines. Another minor detail; the construction must straddle Lille Europe train station. That’s what they were really asking of the architect Christian de Portzamparc, within the framework of Rem Koolhaas‘ urbanisation project, chief architect of the Euralille business district of Lille.
The first French architect to receive the Pritzker prize
Even though Rem Koolhaas headed the project, he couldn’t supervise each and every construction. So it was left to Christian Urvoy de Portzamparc, Christian de Portzamparc to his friends – to resolve the problem posed by the Credit-Lyonnais Tower. As a Fine Arts graduate in 1969, inspired by the works of Le Corbusier, Portzamparc had a penchant for modern architecture and verticality. He is today known for numerous buildings amongst which Granite Tower in Paris, LVMH Tower in New York – that alone is enough – or even the Paris Convention Centre and the headquarters of Le Monde newspaper in Paris. He is also the first French architect to have received the Pritzker Prize (awarded in 1994), the equivalent of the Nobel Prize in architecture (Jean Nouvel later won it in 2008).
But to get back to the subject. The boot shaft is almost 120 metres high, but descends sharply towards the lower part that overlooks Lille Europe train station. This extraordinary shape is the answer to a technical constraint that ensures that the tower does not weigh too heavily on the least supported part that forms a bridge above the train lines. And if the tower widens with every metre it climbs, it’s simply to maximise the number of windows with a view of Lille. Today, Lille Tower is one of the architectural symbols of the Northern city.
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