Do You Know the Most Visible Monument in Paris?

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Do You Know the Most Visible Monument in Paris?
It’s a secular example of omnipresence. It epitomizes the “Mona Lisa Effect,” as it seems to follow you everywhere you go, just as Mona’s magnetic gaze stays with you as you move around the gallery in the Louvre. It barges into almost every Paris scene, like a drunk party guest, whether you want it there or not. Wherever you go, if you look over your shoulder, it’s there . . . lurking. Am I talking about the iconic Eiffel Tower, the structural symbol of Paris? I wish. Mais non. I am speaking of the monolithic monster that breaches the Paris city center skyline: the Montparnasse Tower (or Maine-Montparnasse Tower to be precise). The monolithic Montparnasse Tower © PxHere Every time it comes into view, you might wonder who gave permission for this 59-story incredible hulk to be built in the center of the romantic City of Light. You might think back to the controversy when the Eiffel Tower was built. Artists and writers called it “a truly tragic street lamp,” “an ungainly skeleton,” and “the metal asparagus.” Writer Guy de Maupassant ate lunch every day at the Eiffel Tower because, he claimed, it was the only place where he couldn’t see the offensive structure. But time brings perspective. And now, the Eiffel Tower is the long-lasting, glowing heart of Paris. However, even though the Montparnasse Tower serves as a compass point for many, it will probably never be truly embraced. Using de Maupassant’s logic, though, it is THE place to go for the best view of Paris (a place where you don’t have to see the glass paneled black giant). The good news: The 56th floor restaurant and the 59th floor observation deck are still a relative secret. The city comes alive at night. Photo courtesy of Montparnasse Tower/Photopoint In the Beginning . . . The Tour Montparnasse was completed in 1973 as part of a renovation of the Montparnasse area in the 15th arrondissement, including the train station. The plans were begun in 1959. Architects Beaudouin, Cassan, and Hoÿm de Marien were responsible for the design, with Minister of Interior André Malraux providing the building permit. The final approval for construction came in 1969 from French President Pompidou, who was focused on urban development and modernization of the city (including the destruction of the Les Halles market, the introduction of an expressway by the Seine, and construction of a new Modern Art Museum now called the Centre Pompidou). When the Tour Montparnasse was completed, it was the tallest skyscraper in France at 210 meters (689 feet). It did, regrettably, receive a Pluto-like demotion in 2011 when it was surpassed by the 231-meter Tour First in La Défense. Of course, the Eiffel Tower remains the queen at 324 meters. To ensure that the Eiffel Tower remained at the top of her game, and as perhaps partial recognition that a 59-story building was a mistake in central Paris, buildings over seven stories were banned in the arrondissements shortly after the Montparnasse Tower was completed. (Note: That ban has been lifted as some tall buildings have now been built in several arrondissements, most notably in the 13th and 15th.) A new way to see the city. Photo courtesy of Montparnasse Tower/Photopoint

Lead photo credit : Paris at its best. Photo © Meredith Mullins

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Meredith Mullins is an internationally exhibited fine art photographer and instructor based in Paris. Her work is held in private and museum collections in Europe and the U.S. and can be seen at or in her award-winning book "In A Paris Moment." (If you’re in Paris, a few rare, signed copies are available at Shakespeare and Company and Red Wheelbarrow.) She is a writer for OIC Moments and other travel and education publications.


  • Marilee McClintock
    2020-11-26 07:25:12
    Marilee McClintock
    Don't forget the new cite de Jusice in the 17th arrdt in your list of new tall buildings.