The City of Montpellier selected Sou Fujimoto Architects, Nicolas Laisné Associés and Manal Rachdi Oxo architects’ “White Tree (L’Arbre Blanc)” as the winner of the “Architectural Folie of the 21st Century” competition. Inspired by both Montpellier’s tradition of outdoor living and the efficient properties of trees, this mixed-use residential tower will feed off locally available natural resources — to induce comfort, control environmental impacts, scale back emissions with passively cool units with solar fireplaces — as it rises 17-stories to the sky and connects both new (Port Marianne and Odysseum) and old (City Centre) districts of Montpellier.
The new multipurpose tower is designed for housing, a restaurant, an art gallery, offices, a bar with a panoramic view of the surrounding environment and a common area. It is also located at the crossroads of several thoroughfares: the Lez River, a motorway and a pedestrian/cycling path near the banks of the octroi de Montpellier (land grant). The project will extend a landscaped park along the Lez stretched out to the length of Christophe Colomb Place. The tower’s eastern face curves along the edge of the roundabout as the western face along the Lez is convex, creating the widest panoramic view possible. The curvature actually serves two purposes: offering the best exposure and viewpoint without blocking the view for neighboring residences.
From the start, L’Arbre Blanc was intentionally designed as a natural form, seemingly carved out or sculpted over time by nature. The tower mimics a tree that reshapes itself in order to grow into its environment while ALSO offering much-needed shade. The interior living spaces know ZERO difference between inside and outside, as you are free to move through them seamlessly, and the balconies are proportioned to gravitate inhabitants toward the outdoors, similar to leaves fanning out so they can soak up as much of that warm, nourishing sunlight as possible.