Pierres Vives
by Zaha Hadid


Zaha Hadid has completed a streamlined concrete and glass building for three government departments in Montpellier, France (+ slideshow).

Pierres Vives by Zaha Hadid

The Pierres Vives Building will accommodate the multimedia library, public archive and sports department of the Herault regional government and is due to be inaugurated on 13 September.

Pierres Vives by Zaha Hadid

A recessed section of green-tinted glass runs along the length of the facade, where a first-floor foyer connects the library and offices with shared facilities that include meeting rooms, an auditorium and an exhibition space.

Pierres Vives by Zaha Hadid

These shared facilities are contained inside a curved concrete block, which bursts through the glazing to shelter the main entrance on the ground floor below.

Pierres Vives by Zaha Hadid

Zaha Hadid has also been in the news recently over claims she was to blame for tickets sold at the Olympic Aquatics Centre for seats with restricted views.

Pierres Vives by Zaha Hadid

See all our stories about Zaha Hadid »

Pierres Vives by Zaha Hadid

Photography is by Hélène Binet.

Here's some more information from Zaha Hadid Architects:

The Pierres Vives building of the department de l’Herault is characterised by the unification of three institutions - the archive, the library and the sports department - within a single envelope. These various parts of this “cite administrative” combine into a strong figure visible far into the landscape. As one moves closer, the division into three parts becomes apparent. The building has been developed on the basis of a rigorous pursuit of functional and economic logic. However, the resultant figure is reminiscent of a large tree- trunk, laid horizontal. The archive is located at the solid base of the trunk, followed by the slightly more porous library with the sports department and its well-lit offices on top where the trunk bifurcates and becomes much lighter. The branches projecting off the main trunk are articulating the points of access and the entrances into the various institutions. On the western side all the public entrances are located, with the main entrance under an enormous cantilevering canopy; while on the eastern side all the service entrances, i.e. staff entrances and loading bays are located. In this way the tree-trunk analogy is exploited to organise and articulate the complexity of the overall “cite administrative”.

Pierres Vives by Zaha Hadid

Spatial Organisation

The main vehicular access road- both for public visitors as well as for staff and service vehicles, is coming off Rue Marius Petipa, and provides access to either side of the building. The public access leads to the generous visitor car park right in front of the main entrance lobby. The service access is stretched along the opposite side.

Pierres Vives by Zaha Hadid

This longitudinal division of serviced and servicing spaces is maintained within the ground floor along the full length of the building. The front side contains all the public functions of each institution, linked by a linear lobby and an exhibition space in the centre. Above this connective ground level the three institutions remain strictly separated. Each has its own set of cores for internal vertical circulation. The lay-outs of each part follow their specific functional logic.

Pierres Vives by Zaha Hadid

Upon arrival at the main entrance, one is directed from the lobby either to the educational spaces of the archives on ground level; or via lifts and escalators to the main public artery on level 1. This artery is articulated all along the facades as a recessed glass strip and here reading rooms of both archives and library are immediately accessible. Central in this artery and therefore located at the heart of the building, are the main public facilities shared between the three institutions: auditorium and meeting rooms. These shared public functions also form the central volume that projects out from the trunk, providing a grand cantilevering canopy for arriving visitors.

Pierres Vives by Zaha Hadid

Project: Pierres Vives
Location: Montpellier, France
Date: 2002 / 2012
Client: Departement de l’Herault
Size: 35,000 m2

Architectural Design: Zaha Hadid
Project Architect: Stephane Hof

Local Architect:
Design Phase: Blue Tango
Execution Phase: Chabanne et Partenaires

Structure: Ove Arup & Partners
Services: Ove Arup & Partners (Concept Design) & GEC Ingenierie

Acoustics: Rouch Acoustique Nicolas Albaric
Cost: Gec LR, Ivica Knezovic

  • Colonel Pancake

    By the time they figured how to build it, it was already an out of date form.

    • T.S. Hawk

      “Figuring how to build it” pushes everyone from architects to contractors to patrons to the limit, and that’s how progress and inventions are made. It’s the process that’s most rewarding.

      • Gavin


        There’s nothing particularly unbuildable about curvy concrete. It’s just time consuming and expensive, all to fuel an ego. She isn’t pushing any technological boundaries.

      • Colonel Pancake

        Can you explain how the function of a small government office building in France would be compromised by the limits of formal complexity that had existed before yesterday? Somehow I suspect there is no new way of pushing paper that has made all prior architecture formally redundant.

  • Gavin

    Is anyone else bored of Hadid yet? I spent my early student years wondering why she hadn't 'made it', or at least made something – now – everything she touches turns to folly and I'm sick of her.

    • Ben Dover

      Same feelings here. By the way, I still think her early work was much nicer anyway.

      • Gavin

        Agreed. Although, while I liked the fire station at Vitra, it didn’t work as a fire station and they had to abandon it as a chair museum. Now the aquatics centre has seats with no view, I think she’s shown what happens when the brief doesn’t fit her ideas. She was much better as a paper architect.

        • Will London

          Nonsense. The brief given for the Aquatics Centre was more than fulfilled. The top tier of seats cannot see the highest diving board. These seats can see every other event including the other diving heights, and will be removed afterwards in any case. She more than fulfilled the number of seats required by the brief, in fact she over-delivered.

  • vahef

    Hey guys!

    La jalousie est un vilain défaut! Xcuz my french! oops!

  • Hadid designed the building, the contractor completed it!

  • zorc

    Since most of the text refers to the spatial and functional configuration of the scheme it would be good to see some old fashioned plans and sections.

  • H-J

    I like the retro 50s sci-fi feel of the project. No double-curved surfaces or similar madness just simple straightforward extrusions. It could have been a Jürgen Mayer H building for that matter.

  • I work on some high end projects – I hate to imagine how much this cost the French government. I do like it though.

  • babu

    Thinking about money, technical boundaries or complexity etc. it’s not the primary reason of the architect (for most sustainable architects it is), but it is “her way of visionizing” architecture differently then others, this makes her one of the special architects in the world, the outcome of her project is secondary. Uhm like our comments. I appreciate her way of architecture, I wonder how it feels to be in one of her spaces.

  • asax

    Another ‘amazing’ Hadid building. I just cannot relate to her architecture at all. This building seems so heavy without needing to be – it’s offices! And it seems so dark and cold indoors, I don’t envy the users. I have to agree with previous comments that she is a good ‘paper architect’ and yes many things she has built have caused problems. Time to return to earth Hadid. I too am a bit tired of this ‘copy-paste’ architecture.

  • Soupdragon

    What happens at the ends? All the photos are of the middle bit.

    • Gavin

      Tarpaulin and scaffolding while they raise the rest of the money.

  • fuddy duddy

    I love how Dezeen comment streams follow strict patterns, especially when it concerns Hadid's work:
    1. The 'haters' are first to arrive with arguments about a) how bored they are with her work; b) how useless or wasteful it is; or c) how far away she's strayed from her early (read: avant-garde and therefore legitimate) work.
    2. A 'true believer' will come in her defense with a 'you don't appreciate the complexity of her work…' comment.
    3. An 'outsider' who is clearly not an architect will remain skeptical yet amazed.
    4. The 'haters' come back with fresh strikes.
    5. An earnest 'fan' will attempt to soften the mood with an innocuous cheer such as, 'cool design!'.
    6. This, however, only serves to inflame the 'haters' more.
    7. Repeat.
    All in all, it's makes for a fun read and useful fodder for the procrastination mill. So, thanks.

    • Pierpaolo

      Best and most spot-on post ever read on Dezeen! :)

  • Tellsitlikeitis

    Most Zaha haters are simply misogynists. Jealous misogynists to be precise.

    • Andy

      What about Zaha haters who admire Jeanne Gang, or Kazuyo Sejima, or Monica Ponce de Leon, or Marion Weiss, or or or or. This strawman argument is getting trite/tiring when discussing Zaha.

  • Pyotor

    I’m not an architect but I appreciate good architecture. My two cents from a laymans perspective:

    This one looks heavy and dark. While the shape is futuristic, the choice of materials and colors seems not to be the case. In my opinion, public buildings should be airy, open and transparent.

    Would have been better if the concrete was kept to a minimum. And I’d like to see lots and lots of trees and not an ocean of gray, cold concrete. Also, a huge atrium would be nice.

    Give it seven years and this building will look like a blast from the decades past.

  • richard

    I just like it! But how a guy from the office said "No wonder why they are in recession again!"

  • hossein fahimi

    A much more structured and sensible work compared to other works of hers.

    The facade and interior are both of the same look and architectural style. It can stand among the very good buildings of the past 10yrs.

  • I'm not a Zaha fan but this is a stunning building. I adore the concrete & glass facade.

  • Derek

    Hadid + Brutalism?

  • BaRa

    There are not enough photos to judge the building’s qualities. But based on these photos I’m inclined to say that it’s a bit too “Starship Enterprise” (even though it’s not double curved).

    Of course, with a couple of extra pictures of what a regular corridor and office unit looks like, you might get a completely different idea.

  • chillaxtothemax

    Criticism is so easy to delivery sometimes, especially on posts such as this. One should be aware that the commission for the building (and accordingly the design) was issued well over a decade ago. Part of architecture is not only ‘sketching’ (or now, modelling) your designs… it’s getting the damn designs built (structures, materials, legal, finance, etc)! I'm sure the haters would say that Hadid should have then thought of a more 'timeless' design, but can't you understand that the contribution of architecture and the city is defined by difference (styles, trendiness, materials, levels of ego)? Whether you like it or not, her designs are one of the defining features of the architecture over the last decade, and your whining won’t change that.

    Personally, this project is not my taste, and as mentioned by some previous posters, I prefer her late 90’s style. But damn, give the office some credit, very, very, VERY few offices could achieve this, especially with the difficulties faced by the client throughout the project’s fruition.

  • daw

    So many comments attributing the buildings coming out of Hadid’s office to Zaha herself. Do you realise she is a figurehead for an office full of designers (400 or so) and multiple teams all doing their own thing? If you are complaining that their designs are all sculptural, have you considered that these are the type of projects they get commissioned for? That is why people work there. The projects Zaha gets allow freedom to explore ideas, often based on computing and working methods the project designers have developed for themselves.

    So do not expect to like all the buildings. They are not all from the same source. The idea of the polymath designer is an illusion and I am surprised a lot of these comments seem to be from people in the industry. Does one person in your office design everything? How do you think she designs all the complex 3D forms – in her head Especially things which have to be developed in 3D just for the ideas to be conveyed to others.

    In reality, disliking all the work of Zaha Hadid Architects is more a general dislike of contemporary experimentation and methods of working. I’m not saying you should like the projects, but critiquing them with Zaha this Zaha that is actually quite pointless.

  • Robert

    The project was recently nominated for the RIBA awards. You should also check the inside of the building design by Hoffice – the project architect.