Paris announces major facelift for the Eiffel Tower grounds

Every year 30 million people visit the site of the iconic Eiffel Tower in Paris. But the much-loved landmark has become a victim of its own popularity, with overcrowding, impaired accessibility, lack of services and congested gardens detracting from the experience.

Now London-based landscape architecture firm Gustafson Porter + Bowman has won the contract to reimagine the landscape to help showcase the 2024 Summer Olympics in the French capital. The company beat off stiff competition from three other finalists and 42 international entries.

The project involves the transformation of the site around a central green axis. © Gustafson Porter + Bowman

The project involves the transformation of the site around a central green axis. © Gustafson Porter + Bowman

Founding partner Kathryn Gustafson said: “this competition has been especially meaningful to me because I studied in Paris at L’École Nationale Supérieure de Paysage. Every day I passed the Eiffel Tower, on my way to a school where I was immersed in the great historic landscapes of Versailles.

“The Eiffel Tower reminds me that patrimony means leaving something better for future generations. Our proposal unites a celebration of history with an enhancement of the future.”

Currently tourists get to the tower via a noisy, traffic-crazed bridge, with limited pedestrian space creating frustrating bottlenecks on the footpaths. But Gustafson Porter + Bowman’s plan, called OnE, will turn the surrounds into a pedestrianised garden, stringing together a set of two new public squares and restored parkland, creating a column of greenery across the city.

The Eiffel Tower will be surrounded by a giant new park. © MIR for GP+B

The Eiffel Tower will be surrounded by a giant new park. © MIR for GP+B

GP+B says OnE “proposes a unifying axis; celebrating the Eiffel Tower at the centre of a line that connects the Place du Trocadéro, the Palais de Chaillot, the Pont d’Iéna, the Champ de Mars and the Ecole Militaire.

“Along this central green axis, a series of reimagined landscapes interlock: at the Place du Trocadéro, an amphitheatre of greenery restores space to pedestrians; a new and enlivened public space unfolds from the Varsovie Fountains towards the Pont d’Iéna; the bridge is reincarnated as a green promenade towards the gardens of the Eiffel Tower; the forecourt of the Eiffel Tower caters to the crowds with additional services and facilities discreetly hidden amongst the trees; and the raised lawns of the Champ de Mars protect and elevate the landscape.”

A new and enlivened public space unfolds from the Varsovie fountains. © MIR for GP+B

A new and enlivened public space unfolds from the Varsovie fountains. © MIR for GP+B

It says OnE also creates spaces of pleasure and contemplation that punctuate the length of the site, and serve to prioritise the human scale. New perspectives are framed and staged, rebalancing the gravitational pull of the Eiffel Tower and activating a sense of arrival throughout.

In a statement the studio says the OnE proposal establishes a coherent and refined hierarchy of uses across the site, improving pedestrian accessibility and city circulation. “OnE thus evokes the union of two historic landscape typologies: classical French gardens, characterised by major axes that express power; and French picturesque gardens, as places of artistic experimentation.”

The pont d’Iéna has been re-imagined as green promenade. © MIR for GP+B

The pont d’Iéna has been re-imagined as green promenade. © MIR for GP+B

In this urban landscape, green routes and gardens reserved for creative pursuits frame and soften the central axis. These “corridors” and “glades” introduce biodiversity, as well as areas for hosting temporary events such as musical performances and sculpture exhibitions.

GP+B partner Mary Bowman says: “It’s been an amazing project to work on, with a multi-cultural team of Anglo-French consultants led by our London studio. Our scheme aims to breathe new life into a historic landscape, creating a 21st century destination for one of Paris’ largest parks.

“We look forward to working with the City of Paris to enhance the experience and improve the iconic Eiffel Tower site for all visitors and Parisians.”

The redesign will be paid for by ticket sales to the tower.

Paris, TourismLee Taylor