The Grande Arche de la Défense was completed in 1989 to celebrate the bicentennial of the French Revolution, however, in the years since, there has been little to celebrate: There were issues with the exterior of the arch from nearly the start. The area around the north side was even sealed off after fears that the arch’s Italian Carrara marble exterior would fall on people below. The arch restoration team turned to hard-wearing Polycor BETHEL WHITEⓇ granite to replace the crumbling Carrara marble exterior and restore the arch to a place of pride.
The choice of Bethel White® granite from the Polycor quarry is being recognized by peers in the industry. In 2019, the Grande Arche de la Défense restoration won the Grand Pinnacle Award. This recognition is given to the best project across all categories and is a top prize among the highly coveted awards, which are bestowed by the Natural Stone Institute. The Grand Pinnacle is awarded to “projects whose beauty, creativity, ingenuity and craftsmanship exemplifies professional mastery in the use of natural stone for commercial and residential applications.” An independent panel of judges from both industry and design professions evaluated the entries based on seven project categories.
Bethel White® granite, quarried in Vermont, is flawless in character, grain and purity of color.
Located on the edge of Paris, in the business district for which it was named, the Grande Arche de la Défense is one of the “Grande Projects” built during the presidency of Francois Mitterand, who wanted his legacy to include important works of architecture that would define France’s modernity and economic strength.
And, though many new projects are controversial, especially ultra-modern ones, the arch was almost universally approved when it went up, as it also showed a modern flair that is at the heart of the French spirit.
The coolly minimalist Grande Arche de la Défense was designed by Danish architect Johan Otto von Spreckelen (later, with construction by French architect Paul Andreuand). It looks like a giant door frame that opens on to the world. It is indeed impressive—and expansive. It’s a marble and glass 110 meter (361 ft) tall hollow cube that’s big enough to fit Notre-Dame Cathedral in its archway. The strikingly spare structure contains 35 floors of restaurants, office and event spaces. The great expanse of space and stairs at the foot of the arch have become a popular place for office workers to sit and eat their lunch while overlooking Paris.
The stairs at the foot of the arch have become a popular place for office workers to sit and eat their lunch while overlooking Paris.
Only a few years after it was built, the structure of its facade began to deteriorate, with extensive cracking and spalling. The building’s concrete frame was covered with 300,000 tons of glass and clad in white Italian Carrara marble. But that stone soon proved to lack the resilience needed for its intended application, succumbing to the effects of climate and acid rain.
A restoration team was put in place and it immediately began scouring the world to find a stone that would withstand extreme temperature swings, while fully respecting the original sleek and gleaming white design.
Only a few years after the Grande Arche de la Défense was built, the white Italian Carrara marble on its facade began to deteriorate.
The team found a natural choice in the flawless character, even grain and purity of color of Polycor Bethel White® granite, quarried in Vermont. The hard wearing granite became the basis of a €192 million renovation to replace the Carrara marble exterior with granite panels in 2016.
The surface treatment the granite receives ensures the same shade and shine as the original marble, resulting in a clean and white surface, with no worries of durability. The choice of the white American granite over Italian marble is a growing trend worldwide, as granite demonstrates its ability to stay white in all weather conditions without oxidizing or rusting.
Up close granite and marble are clearly two different stones, granite having a more variegated interlocking crystalline structure and marble a milkier composition usually with more veining. A detail photo of the granite shows how the pinhead taupe grains are slightly visible up close, but from a distance visual blending registers the surface as a pure white.
An up close of Bethel White® granite shows how the pinhead taupe grains are slightly visible but from a distance visual blending registers the surface as a pure white.
If your project team is facing durability challenges with marble, Bethel White® granite may be your solution. Its clean white appearance supports slick modern designs like the arch, and offers an excellent carving medium for classical designs.