White Tree Montpellier
White tree Montpellier
Architects: Sou Fujimoto architects, Nicolas Laisné, Dimitri Roussel, and OXO architects
Location: Montpellier, France
In 2014, Sou Fujimoto architects was chosen, as part of a larger team, to construct the second ‘architectural folly of the 21st century’ in the southern French city of Montpellier. following in the footsteps of Farshid Moussavi, who designed the city’s first ‘architectural folly’, the 17-storey mixed-use tower accommodates residential units, office space, an art gallery, a restaurant, and a panoramic bar.
The 10,000-square-meter building was designed to appear as though it had grown organically out of the ground. protruding from the façade, the scheme’s various ‘branches’ provide selected areas of shade for adjacent properties. the tower also welcomes Montpellier’s residents and visitors with a ground floor restaurant and art gallery, and a penthouse bar that provides panoramic views towards the ocean and neighboring mountain range. see designboom’s previous coverage of the project here.
This “Folie Architecturale of the 21st century” was mainly the brainchild of an encounter between Japan and the Mediterranean. The cross-cultural endeavor embodies modern Montpellier. It is also an interchange between two generations of architects, with Japanese firm Sou Fujimoto at the state of its art and the young French generation represented by Manal Rachdi Oxo Architects and Nicolas Laisné Associés. Other firms were brought in to take part in this one-of-a-kind venture: Montpellier developers Promeo Patrimoine and Evolis Promotion, local stakeholders who will ensure this iconic project will represent success for the entire region.
The building was sited to meld with and defer to its surrounding environment, yet gives it just the right added flair. Arching like a pair of wings hugging the contours of the Lez River down to Pompignane Avenue, Arbre Blanc was intentioned as a natural form that was carved out or sculpted over time by water or wind. It perfectly mimics a tree reshaping itself to grow into its environment yet simultaneously enhancing it by offering much-needed shade.
Despite the name “white tree,” this is by no means an ivory tower. A beat integral to the urban song, the building is destined as a public high-rise built for every soul in Montpellier. The edifice will extend its limbs to all the city’s residents and visitors, from the ground floor restaurant and art gallery to the penthouse bar serving as vista point. This attainable passage will make the tower that much more attractive as a source of pride for Montpellians and a point of interest for tourists. Of all people, the building is unavoidable for its inhabitants, so a common space has been added on to the public bar where all the co-owners from any floor can have a private taste of the scenic view.
The 17-story high-rise dominates the Montpellier skyline, creating a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to soak in the breathtaking expanse with a view of the ocean, the Pic Saint-Loup mountains, the sprawling city and the Lez River below.
Spaces in the flats know no difference between inside and outside – you are free to move through them instinctively. The balconies are proportioned to make you gravitate toward the outdoors, like leaves fanning out to soak up the warm nourishing sunlight.
Just like a tree, the tower will feed off its locally available natural resources to drastically reduce the energy it needs to expend. It will devise passive strategies to induce comfort and use as well as control environmental impacts and scale back emissions.
The choice of sustainable and ecological materials, the orientation of buildings, everything is carefully thought through to be sustainable without harming the environment. Hence the use of Accoya wood for the construction of the outdoor terraces.
Manal Rachdi insists “For us, the ecology is obvious, necessary and the reflection that we lead on the sustainability of our buildings must be pragmatic,”
L’Arbre Blanc (The White Tree)/architectmagazine.com