La Défense is Europe’s largest purpose-built business district with 560 hectares (5.6 million square metres) area, 72 glass and steel buildings and skyscrapers, 180,000 daily workers, and 3.5 million square metres (37.7 million sq ft) of office space.Around its Grande Arche and esplanade (“le Parvis”), La Défense contains many of the Paris urban area’s tallest high-rises, and is home to no fewer than 1,500 corporate head offices, including those of 15 of the top 50 companies in the world.
The district is located at the westernmost extremity of the ten-kilometre-long Historical Axis of Paris, which starts at the Louvre in Central Paris, and continues along the Champs-Élysées, well beyond the Arc de Triomphe before culminating at La Défense.
In September 1958, The Public Establishment for Installation of La Défense (EPAD) buildings (of which the Esso Tower was the very first) were built and began to slowly replace the city’s factories, shanties, and even a few farms.In the early 1970s, in response to great demand, a second generation of buildings began to appear, but the economic crisis in 1973 nearly halted all construction in the area. The tallest skyscraper, the Tour First belongs to AXA was constructed in 1974. It is 231 metres (758 ft) high, has 50 floors, and is the highest inhabited building in the Paris area (a title previously held by the Tour Montparnasse, which was the tallest inhabited building until the Tour First was renovated between 2007 and 2011, bringing it to its current height from a previous 159 metres (522 ft); the tallest structure in Paris is the Eiffel Tower). A third generation of towers began to appear in the early 1980s. The biggest commercial centre in Europe (at the time), the Quatre Temps, was created in 1981. In 1982, the EPAD launched the Tête Défense competition to find a monument to complete the Axe historique, which eventually led to the construction of Grande Arche at the west end of the quarter.