Sou Fujimoto designs nature-inspired tower
for Montpellier "modern follies" project

| 17 comments
 

News: Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto has unveiled plans for a tower block shaped like a pine cone with balconies sprouting outwards in all directions, as part of a series of "modern follies" underway in Montpellier, France (+ slideshow).

Sou Fujimoto designs tree-inspired tower for Montpellier "modern follies" project

Sou Fujimoto is collaborating with French studios Manal Rachdi OXO and Nicolas Laisne Architects on the second in a series of 12 new buildings planned for the Port Marianne district of Montpellier, following an apartment block designed by Farshid Moussavi.

Sou Fujimoto designs tree-inspired tower for Montpellier "modern follies" project
Image and main image (above) by RSI Studio

Named Arbre Blanc, which translates as White Tree, the 17-storey mixed-use tower will follow Fujimoto's ideology that architecture should reflect forms found in nature.

Sou Fujimoto designs tree-inspired tower for Montpellier "modern follies" project
Image by RSI Studio

The building will feature a curved body reminiscent of a tree trunk, while the balconies of its 120 apartments are designed to fan outwards like leaves seeking sunlight. Homes will face different directions, allowing future residents to select the orientations that best suit their lifestyles.

Sou Fujimoto designs tree-inspired tower for Montpellier "modern follies" project

Living rooms will open out to balconies half as big as the apartments to fit in with Montpellier's tradition of outdoor living.

Sou Fujimoto designs tree-inspired tower for Montpellier "modern follies" project

Other spaces in the tower will include an art gallery, a restaurant, a panoramic bar and offices. Located at the crossroads of several major thoroughfares, including the Lez river and the motorway, the project will also encompass the extension of the riverside park.

Sou Fujimoto designs tree-inspired tower for Montpellier "modern follies" project

Construction of Arbre Blanc is scheduled for July 2015 and expected to complete by December 2017, while Moussavi's Jardins de la Lironde is set to start on site this year. The brief for all 12 was to design a "modern folly" that references the eighteenth-century chateaux built by wealthy merchants around Montpellier.

Sou Fujimoto designs tree-inspired tower for Montpellier "modern follies" project

Here's some more details from the press release:


Folie Architecturale of the 21st century

This 'Folie Architecturale of the 21st century' was mainly the brainchild of an encounter between Japan and the Mediterranean. The cross-cultural endeavour 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.

Sou Fujimoto designs tree-inspired tower for Montpellier "modern follies" project

The new multipurpose tower called Arbre Blanc (white tree) is designed for housing, a restaurant, an art gallery, offices, a bar with a panoramic view and a common area. From the project’s concept phase, the architects were heavily inspired by Montpellier's tradition of outdoor living. The tower is strategically located between the city centre and the newly developed districts of Port Marianne and Odysseum, midway between the 'old' and the new Montpellier.

Sou Fujimoto designs tree-inspired tower for Montpellier "modern follies" project

It is also situated at the crossroads of several thoroughfares: the Lez River, the motorway and the pedestrian/cycling path along the banks of the octroi de Montpellier, or land grant. The project will kick off with a grand gesture to extend a landscaped park along the Lez and stretch out the length of Christophe Colomb Place. The eastern face curves along the edge of the roundabout while the western side on the Lez is convex to create the widest panorama possible. The curvature serves two purposes because this part of the facade offers the best exposure and viewpoint but does not block the view for neighbouring residences.

Sou Fujimoto designs tree-inspired tower for Montpellier "modern follies" project

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.

Sou Fujimoto designs tree-inspired tower for Montpellier "modern follies" project

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.

Sou Fujimoto designs tree-inspired tower for Montpellier "modern follies" project

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. 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.

Sou Fujimoto designs tree-inspired tower for Montpellier "modern follies" project

Rather than an interesting flat, future residents will find a versatile space. Each resident will select a setting (west-facing three-bedroom, southeast two-bedroom, etc.) and a preferred floor plan from a list of possible layouts.

Sou Fujimoto designs tree-inspired tower for Montpellier "modern follies" project
Plunge axonometric diagram - click for larger image
Sou Fujimoto designs tree-inspired tower for Montpellier "modern follies" project
Exploded axonometric diagram - click for larger image
Sou Fujimoto designs tree-inspired tower for Montpellier "modern follies" project
Balcony diagram - click for larger image
Sou Fujimoto designs tree-inspired tower for Montpellier "modern follies" project
Urban integration diagram - click for larger image
Sou Fujimoto designs tree-inspired tower for Montpellier "modern follies" project
Water cycle diagram - click for larger image
Sou Fujimoto designs tree-inspired tower for Montpellier "modern follies" project
Exterior spaces diagram - click for larger image
Sou Fujimoto designs tree-inspired tower for Montpellier "modern follies" project
Section diagram - click for larger image
Sou Fujimoto designs tree-inspired tower for Montpellier "modern follies" project
West elevation - click for larger image
Sou Fujimoto designs tree-inspired tower for Montpellier "modern follies" project
South elevation - click for larger image
  • stefan

    Nice, but where are the plans? It’s a housing project, so plans are the most important part of the article.

    On the other hand I only wish to be present when someone explains to Sou Fujimoto what “C+D” means in the context of French fire regulations.

  • Adrian

    Yikes! I want to like it but I just can’t get on board with those balconies.

  • seth

    Nope (>_<)

  • Grapes

    I shouldn’t like this but i do!,However, I think the internal renders are not a truthful indication of how much natural sunlight will enter into the building. Judging by the large balconies the flats will be very dark. #justsaying

  • billcanada

    Cantilever balconies like that probably aren’t strong enough for so much weight. The concept is cute but with that many balconies and close proximity the apartments must be small and in weird shapes.

  • archishitizen

    Disgusting! What kind of inspiration is from nature!? He is good with the small scale.

  • Damla

    Visual pollution.

  • joe hans

    Fascinating idea but those slabs are way too thin for such a balcony, even if you factor in upturn beams. Even more so considering in some perspectives they want to install a couple of tree holding planter boxes.

  • Andrew@andrewjosephpr.com

    This is so imaginative. It’s one of those pieces that is so expressive it gets you sketching! LOVE

  • Jaxe

    Where are the squirrels?

  • iBear64

    This would:

    1) be very expensive to construct due to the structure involved

    2) give any structural engineer I have worked with nightmares.

    • d d

      This is exactly what a bureaucrat told Pharaoh about the pyramids, but no one remembers that guy.

  • tone

    Pinecones…

  • http://akira.hana.bi/ Akira Uchimura

    A dream come true for Jackie Chan movie enthusiasts! Now nobody will need an elevator to go down. If youb know what I mean.

  • http://www.theidlearchitect.com/ The Idle Architect

    I would love to see the wind tunnel test results.

  • enepe

    The images are impressive and the concept is awesome, really unique, the structure is very challenging for the civil engineers, seismic factors and all. For some reason I see a bit of Gaudi spirit in the organic form of the building.. my two cents.

  • Michael S

    Amazing.