CNIT-Centre of New Industries and Technologies

CNIT, Paris - France, Robert Camelot, Jean de Mailly, Bernard Zehrfuss
Construction year: 1958
Address: Parvis de la Defense | PARIS | France
Latitude/Longitude: 48.89267, 2.23945

The Centre of New Industries and Technologies, better known as the CNIT, located in Puteaux, France, is one of the first buildings built in La Défense in Paris, France. It functions as convention centre, though it also houses shops and offices such as Fnac, ESSEC Business School campus for executive education, as well as a Hilton hotel.

The initial of the building took place between 1956 and 1958 with the first concrete poured on May 8. Its architects were Robert Edouard Camelot, Jean de Mailly, Bernard Zehrfuss accompanied by the engineer Jean Prouvé for the exterior. The structural engineer for the concrete shell was Nicolas Esquillan.

At the time of its construction, the La Defense business district did not exist and the site for the building was at the roundabout or “rond point” of La Defense where the old Zodiac Aerospace factory was situated. The site was named for a statue called “La Defense De Paris” by the sculptor Louis-Ernest Barrias which was situated on a natural hill between the towns of Puteaux and Courbevoie. This statue, originally erected in 1883, has now been moved to the west of the La Defense plaza.

Originally conceived as an exhibition center for the French machine tools industry, the building was inaugurated by General, and soon to be President, Charles de Gaulle on 12 September 1958.

There were two refubishments before the one in 2009. The major refurbishment of the CNIT was finished in summer 2009 increasing the public space within the building by the re-opening of the lower floor which now contains new shops and restaurants. During this work, some of the more esthetic features of the 1988 redesign, including the striking triangular door handles that copied the shape of the building were lost to more modern but otherwise unremarkable fittings.

This building is notable for being the largest unsupported concrete span enclosed space in the world. Its triangular structure is supported on three points that are two hundred and eighteen metres apart. The centre of the roof is more than forty six meters above the ground. Situated on the northern side of the La Defense plaza, this is one of the most eye catching buildings in modern architecture, being constructed of reinforced concrete in an innovative double shelled design with internal ribs.

Internally, the impressive vaulted roof is entirely unencumbered by columns or girders and the buildings within the space provide no structural support whatsoever, seeming rather to hang from the span itself.

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