Rising star of Japanese architecture Sou Fujimoto designs out-of-the-ordinary structures all over the world. But his meeting with two French architects, Nicolas Laisné and Manal Rachdi, has just conceived a building the likes of which have never been seen. Situated at the edge of Le Lez, to the East of Montpellier, the Arbre Blanc is a building project designed as a stack of villas: here you can go on holiday without leaving your apartment… as the future 17-storey building aims to reproduce life in a village, at the heart of the Mediterranean metropolis.
The whole is designed as suspended gardens protected by canopies in directable strips. In its metabolism, this mixed construction of 10,000 m² will house a complex of 110 homes, a restaurant, an art gallery, a panoramic bar and offices. On the residential side, the tower is made unique by the proliferation of the balconies and shadehouses that envelop its central body like a tree.
But beyond its futuristic shape, this construction advocates a new way of living. In Montpellier people live outside. Just like branches, the balconies double the surface areas of the apartments. The glazed surfaces provide a transition between interior and exterior. They account for 40% of the façades, double the normal ratio.
Another peculiarity: the base footprint of this 56-metre tower has been recovered by the community. Its roof is open to the public who can get there by a direct lift. At nightfall, the Arbre Blanc becomes a lighthouse or star in the skyline of the region’s metropolis. A kind of urban landmark, a lively, high-point meeting place.
Fate has it that this very modern work will face the neoclassical, almost dictatorial style of Ricardo Bofill’s Antigone, the starting point of Montpellier’s urban evolution in the 1980s. Two styles, two worlds, two sensibilities. But a single ambition: to make an urban poem out of a moment of madness. Delivery scheduled for spring 2018.