A great national design competition was launched in 1982 as the initiative of French president François Mitterrand. Danish architect Johann Otto von Spreckelsen (1929–1987) and Danish engineer Erik Reitzel designed the winning entry to be a late-20th-century version of the Arc de Triomphe: a monument to humanity and humanitarian ideals rather than military victories. The construction of the monument began in 1985. Spreckelsen resigned on July 1986 and ratified the transfer of all his architectural responsibilities to his associate, French architect Paul Andreu. Reitzel continued his work until the monument was completed in 1989.
La Grande Arche was inaugurated in July 1989, with grand military parades that marked the bicentennial of the French Revolution. It completed the line of monuments that forms the Axe historique running through Paris. The Arche is turned at an angle of 6.33° on this axis. The most important reason for this turn was technical: with a métro station, an RER station, and a motorway all situated directly underneath the Arche, the angle was the only way to accommodate the structure's giant foundations. In addition, from an architectural point of view, the turn emphasizes the depth of the monument and is similar to the turn of the Louvre at the other end of the Axe historique.
La Voie Royale, a film by director Larbi Chikh, suggests that the turn precisely orients the structure towards the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. In reality, this would require a turn of 15°.
The two sides of the Arche house government offices. The roof section was an exhibition centre, housing the Musée de l'Informatique (Computing Museum). The roof, when it was open to the public, was also popular for its views of Paris are to be had from the lifts taking visitors to the roof. However, after an accident without injury in the elevators in April 2010, the Department of Ecology, owner of the roof of the Grande Arche, decided to permanently close the computer museum, restaurant, and viewing deck. Access to the roof is still possible via the elevators in the north and south walls, but they are closed to the public.
View of the Arc de Triomphe from the Grande Arche
Christmas decoration at the Grand Arche
The Grande Arche seen from the Arc de Triomphe on the Axe historique