Amid the architectural penchant for sharp angles and geometric lines, Le Monde’s new Paris headquarters feels refreshingly ahead of the curve. With its elegantly contoured shape, gradient-tinted windows, and concave bridge, the eight-floor, 246,850-square-foot building is captivating, but its design serves a purpose beyond aesthetics. Designed by Oslo-based architecture firm Snøhetta in partnership with Paris’s SRA Architects, the headquarters’ shape was chosen in response to a national tragedy.
In 2015, just days before architect Kjetil Trædal Thorsen—a founding partner at Snøhetta—pitched the firm’s design to Pierre Bergé (the French industrialist has a significant stake in Le Monde and cofounded Yves Saint Laurent in 1961), the staff at French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo were attacked by two gunmen who left 11 people injured and 12 dead. Thorsen’s final design focused on uniting the community and added an outdoor plaza and a cross-cutting archway.
Slated to open in November, the building sits on a concrete slab over the Gare d’Austerlitz railway in the 13th arrondissement. The site was originally divided into two plots that the firm opted to link via an approximately 262-foot-long bridge. Constructed from 4,200 tons of steel, walled-in glass panels, and finished with concrete made in situ, the archway is heavier than the Eiffel Tower.
Beyond its pragmatic function—connecting the publication’s departments—the bridge cuts diagonally through the site, allowing foot traffic to pass underneath it through Le Monde’s plaza, which is equipped with a café, visitors’ center, outdoor seating, and green areas. “Paris is a dynamic city that constantly searches for new sites to develop,” says Thorsen. “Locations such as this are ecological in the long term, and utilizing such sites can be seen as repairing the urban fabric.”