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Competition: Montparnasse Tower retrofit, Paris


An open international competition has been launched for a €300 million overhaul of Paris’ opinion-splitting Montparnasse Tower (Deadline: 13 July)

Backed by building owner Ensemble Immobilier Tour Maine-Montparnasse, the contest seeks proposals to return the 210 metre-tall landmark to its ‘former glory’.

Designed by Eugène Beaudouin, Urbain Cassan and Louis Hoym de Marien, the controversial 59-storey building triggered a 40-year ban on towers in the French capital shortly after its completion in 1973.

Jean-Louis Missika, assistant to the mayor of Paris, commented: ‘We welcome this competition that will breathe new life into the Montparnasse Tower and adapt its usage to the 21st century.

‘The renovation of the tower is an opportunity to initiate a thorough transformation of the area in terms of public spaces, traffic and programming and it will also be an opportunity to turn the page on the “above the street urban planning” that has alienated Parisians living in the Montparnasse neighbourhood.’

Architect and project coordinator Jean-Marie Duthilleul added: ‘All of the proposals from the international competition are possible – we’re accepting surprises.’

Located in the Montparnasse district – the epicentre of the artistic world in the 1920s – the skyscraper was the tallest in France until 2011.



Source: Image by Thbz

Montparnasse Tower

Today the structure in Paris’ low-rise 15th arrondissement – which features offices, a restaurant and a viewing terrace – is the 17th tallest building in the European Union.

The winning team – set to be announced in spring next year – will upgrade the facade, reconfigure ground-floor circulation spaces and bring the structure up to current environmental standards.

The project will also remove any remaining asbestos from the building while improving accessibility and energy performance.

First announced last year, the renovation is part of a larger programme of works – dubbed Demain Montparnasse – which will regenerate the entire 2.5 hectares surrounding the iconic structure.

Potential upgrades include enlarging a 30,000m² shopping centre at the tower’s base and erecting a new hotel and housing within existing plaza.

The redevelopment is expected to complete by 2024 when the city is currently bidding to host the summer Olympics. The host city – contested by Rome, Budapest and Los Angeles – will be announced in September 2017.

How to apply


13 July

Contact details


View the competition website for more information

Guy’s Tower external retrofit case study: Q&A with Sunand Prasad

The co-founder of Penoyre & Prasad discusses lessons learned recladding the Guy’s Hospital Tower in central London



Source: Image by Dennis Gilbert

Guy’s Tower External Retrofit by Penoyre and Prasad

How did your work at Guy’s improve the building’s performance while upgrading its appearance and public realm connections?

Guy’s Hospital Tower, which is actually two towers – one with a vertical emphasis and the other a series of horizontal slabs – was designed before the oil crisis of 1973, with little regard to energy use. The lightness of the high performance skin we designed to cover the un-insulated solid concrete walls enabled construction with no disruption to its use. On the vertical part the dark anodised aluminium’s skin’s special origami-like fold stiffens it and gives it depth and apparent weight.

The facets catch the light and change the tower’s appearance dramatically with the day and the weather. The verticality is further intensified by marking out the great chimney stack with a lighter cladding, culminating in an art work by Carsten Nicolai.

Which material, structural and other techniques are available to architects seeking to achieve a similar outcome?

There is a huge range of techniques available that can be designed to give different architectural results from the subtle to the radical. You could upgrade the Montparnasse Tower and leave it as boring as ever. You could encase it in an entirely new skin a few feet out from the existing and use the space in between for balconies, planting and wintergardens in artful compositions to make something quite new on the Paris skyline.

What considerations are important when overhauling similar high-rise towers from this era such as the Montparnasse Tower?

There are obvious ones like safety and whether and how to keep the building in use (as at Guy’s). There is the whole issue of designing for, achieving and rigorously measuring the environmental performance. And overarching everything, such a once in a generation retrofit should also make the whole building better, more useful and beautiful inside and out.



Source: Image by Dennis Gilbert

Guy’s Tower External Retrofit by Penoyre and Prasad