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The Man Who Tried to Change the Soul of Paris

Michel Holley built a mini-city of hulking towers on the Left Bank. He thought he was creating a utopia, but most of the city disagreed.
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"At my age, unfortunately, one has no more dreams," says Michel Holley, the 87-year-old architect who once built Paris toward the sky. "One has turned toward the past."

Forty years ago, Holley’s residential towers called Olympiades were the pièce de resistance of the city’s biggest renovation in over a century. Holley drew inspiration from Le Corbusier, who famously envisioned Paris as gridded, severe high-rises. Today, the towers sway between vitality and decay. Holley, who also worked on Montparnasse Tower and the Front de Seine, led controversial, sweeping projects to accommodate immigrants, baby boomers, and cars in 1960s Paris. “I dreamed a lot, in those days,” he says. "Because these were inventions and creations in advance of their time, and I dreamed a lot, and I realized my dreams, realized my utopias."