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issue 51 - August/September 2019
CURVE magazine cover August/September 2019
Architecture  Focus  

TREE OF LIFE

Montpellier's L'Arbre Blanc Redefines Tower Living

In 2013, Montpellier city council launched the Folie Richter competition. It sought to identify a blueprint for a beacon tower to enrich the city's architectural heritage. The RFP stressed the desire for a bold project that had to fit into its environment and that included shops and homes. The creative teams of Manal Rachdi, Nicolas Laisne and Dimitri Roussel decided to call on the Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto. All three of them seek inspiration in nature even if they express it in very different ways. In the L'Arbre Blanc, these four visions would be mutually enriching. To reinvent the tower, the architects focused on the human dimension, creating public spaces at the bottom and top of the building: the ground floor is a glass walled space opening out onto the street, while on the roof there is a bar open to the public and a common area for residents, so that even the owners of first floor apartments can enjoy the view.

But what sets the project apart is its design. The four architects devised a building inspired by a tree, with balconies that branch off the trunk and shades that sprout out of and protect its facade. The attention paid to its setting, and to local lifestyles, guided the architects throughout the design phase. The many balconies and pergolas really do promote outdoor living and enable a new type of relationship between residents. Each apartment boasts an outdoor space of at least 7m² (the largest is 35m²), with multiple levels of privacy and layout options; residents of the duplex apartments can move from one balcony to the other.

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