This began with the creation of the Champs Élysées, designed in the 17th century to create a vista to the west, linking the Louvre, at the time the royal palace, with the Palace of the Tuileries. In 1836 the completion of the Arc de Triomphe on the Place de l'Étoile at the western end of the avenue formed the far point of this line of perspective, which starts at the Sully wing of the Musée du Louvre -- passing the modern-day glass Pyramide du Louvre of I.M. Pei and the Arc du Carrousel, through the Jardins des Tuileries (Tuileries gardens), on the site of the Tuileries, and the Place de la Concorde.
The axis was extended again westwards along the Avenue de la Grande Armée, past the city boundary of Paris to La Défense. This was originally a large junction, named for a statue commemoration the defence of Paris in the Franco-Prussian War.
In the 1950s, the area around La Defènse was marked out to become a new business district, and high-rise office buildings were built along the avenue. The axis found itself extended yet again, and ambitious projects for the western extremity of the modern plaza.
It was not until the 1980s, under president François Mitterrand, that a project was initiated, with a modern 20th century version of the Arc de Triomphe. This is the work of Danish architect Johann Otto von Spreckelsen, La Grande Arche de la Fraternité (usually known as simply La Grande Arche), a monument to humanity and humanitarian ideals rather than militaristic victories. It was inaugurated in 1990.
This adds a few twists to the axis: