Foster + Partners’ massive Hermatage Plaza will be placed right on the Seine River east of La Défense as part as an effort to revitalize the area. The core design strategy is the twist in the building’s floor plate that allows for a public plaza between the two towers, but turns to provide views of the city. The scale of the project will allow for a fully realized vertical town whose offering will be a magnet for the greater city, but allow residents to have access to many of the services they need under one roof.
The towers will be built to a BREEM rating of ‘excellent’ using a host of advanced and common-sense strategies that are now becoming a hallmark of Norman Foster’s buildings. Features like the twist in the frame of the buildings allows for optimized exposure; the windows tilt downward providing a self shading effect in summer; and they can also stategically open to provide natural cooling — which is virtually unheard of in tall building design. Also typical of Foster+Partners work is a diagrid or cross-bracing of the structural framework that reduces the amount of steel needed.
Interestingly, the exposed structure bracing echos the Eiffel Tower’s form-follows-function aesthetic, which when completed in 1889 was panned by many as an eyesore. The Hermatage Plaza is also the center of a heated conversation about how Paris is to grow but maintain its uniqueness, so the news that the project will be accepted may point to a city ready to, if not reluctantly, embrace the future.