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Axe historique

The Axe historique (historical axis) is a line of monuments, buildings and thoroughfares that run out from the centre of Paris, France, to the west. It is also known as the "Voie Triomphale" (triumphal way).

This began with the creation of the Champs Élysées, designed in the 17th century to create a vista to the west from the Louvre, at the time the royal palace. In 1836 the completion of the Arc de Triomphe at the western end of the avenue formed the far point of this line of perspective, which starts at the Sully wing of the Musée du Louvre -- passing the modern-day glass Pyramide du Louvre[?] of I.M. Pei[?] and the Arc du Carrousel[?], through the Jardins des Tuileries[?] (Tuileries gardens) and the Place de la Concorde.

The axis was extended again westwards along the Avenue de la Grande Armée, past the city boundary of Paris to La Defense. This was originally a large junction, named for a statue commemoration the defence of Paris in the Franco-Prussian War.

In the 1950s, the area around La Defense was marked out to become a new business district, and high-rise office buildings were built along the avenue. The axis found itself extended yet again, and ambitious projects for the western extremity of the modern plaza.

It was not until the 1980s, under president François Mitterrand, that a project was initiated, with a modern 20th century version of the Arc de Triomphe. This is the work of Danish architect Johann Otto von Spreckelsen[?], La Grande Arche de la Fraternité (usually known as simply La Grande Arche), a monument to humanity and humanitarian ideals rather than militaristic victories. It was inaugurated in 1990.

This adds a few twists to the axis:

  • the network of railway lines and road tunnels beneath the elevated plaza of La Defense prevented the pillars supporting the arch from being exactly in line with the axis: it is slightly out of line, bending the axis should it be extended further to the west
  • from the roof of the Grande Arche, a second axis can be seen: the Tour Montparnasse stands exactly behind the Eiffel Tower.

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