“In Paris, there are two towers: the Eiffel Tower and the Montparnasse Tower. The factual observation is from Emmanuel Grégoire, current first deputy to the Paris City Hall in charge of urban planning. But if for the first, the time for criticism seems over, the second does not yet seem to have reached the respectable age of consensus, according to the very successful film – but too short, really – released on the occasion of its 50 years. Unless…

The Montparnasse tower has been unleashing passions since well before its inauguration, on June 18, 1973 – a date chosen for its Gaullist resonance. The documentary goes back to 1945 to trace the controversial history of the building, wanted as a symbol of modernity and rebirth by André Malraux, Minister of Culture from 1959 to 1969.

We find the same polemical climate today among the speakers. Among its defenders, Virginie Picon-Lefèbvre, architect and researcher, and Fatty Daoud-Almadowar, head hostess of the tower from 1973 to 2017; at the head of its detractors, the current mayor of the 15th arrondissement, Philippe Goujon, who even, for a time, called for its demolition.

Old and dirty

The “Maine-Montparnasse project” nevertheless responds to a triple expectation: the lack of housing, the modernization of the station for holidaymakers and – more rarely mentioned – the development of the tertiary sector, which requires the massive construction of offices.

Documents, plans, models, archives restore these issues. We discover, among other things, the Montparnasse station “before”, old-fashioned and dirty, then the vast construction site, the advanced technologies implemented, the workers, between earth and sky… And the views of Paris, at different periods, magnificent.

Among the program excerpts, one shows Jean-Claude Aaron, promoter who died on December 7, 2006, responsible for carrying out the work. He is taken to task during a micro-sidewalk. To the woman who calls him a thief, he replies: “Enchanted, madam”… Which is reminiscent of a certain Jacques Chirac, mayor of Paris in 1977.

Politicians have a special link to the tower. In 1974, it housed the headquarters of François Mitterrand’s presidential campaign. Its winner, the elected president Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, will put a brake on major Parisian projects. Among the major speakers, Jacques Toubon, ex-minister and former defender of rights, recalls the creation of the RPR on December 5, 1976. “The next day, we moved into the tower. Every evening, we watched the sunset over the Eiffel Tower, we were in heaven! »

Since then, the skyscraper has never stopped adapting: to the oil shocks, the asbestos ban, and, soon, to the climate challenge. A chance to seize: “If the project is successful, the Montparnasse tower will settle in the hearts of Parisians”, assures Emmanuel Grégoire.