Covid-19 threw the raison d’être of Paris La Défense, Europe’s largest business district, into sharp relief as CEO Pierre-Yves Guice says the district has to update the lifestyle it offers to reflect the paradigm shift triggered by the pandemic.
“What’s the point of having a big business district when there is a dissociation between the means of work and the places of work?” wonders Mr Guice as fDi catches up with him at Mipim 2022 — one of Europe's largest real estate market events that had its first fully fledged iteration since 2019 on March 15–18.
La Défense extends over 564 hectares that accommodate 62 high-rise building buildings and 3.84 million square metres of office space — more than twice as much than the 1.5 million square metres offered by Canary Wharf in London. Before the pandemic, around 180,000 workers used to commute in and out of the district every working day. That is not the case any longer, forcing the district to reassess its balance between office and residential space.
“The 1980s-style workers no longer existed before the pandemic. The big companies based in La Défense, like Total, Saint Gobain and Société Générale had, to some extent, moved faster than we had. Now, it is for us to offer the lifestyle that goes with that new form of working,” Mr Guice says.
He says that one will be able to speak of visitors to La Défense rather than workers, as it moves to expand its offer with plans for new residential buildings, restaurants and urban parks. One such project is Odyssey, which is set to have three buildings around a central square with hotels, living spaces and shops covering 141,000 square meters.
The area already accommodates 42,000 inhabitants, according to its official figures.
“We want to make La Défense a place of innovation and experimentation, as it was in the 1960s and 1970s — but now with low-carbon construction.”