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Sou Fujimoto-led team wins French folly contest

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The designer of the 2013 Serpentine Pavilion Sou Fujimoto, alongside French architects Manal Rachdi Oxo and Nicholas Laisne Architects has been chosen to design an ‘architectural folly’ for the city of Montpellier

Fujimoto’s 17-storey tower contains 120 apartments, a panoramic bar, and offices with a restaurant and art gallery at the ground floor.

Named ‘Arbre Blanc’ or ‘White Tree’ the scheme appears to grow out of the ground, and ‘branches’ in the form of balconies fan out from the building providing shading for the residential apartments.

The scheme is set to start on site in July 2015 and is expected to complete in December 2017.

The scheme will form part of the French city’s project to build 12 new architectural follies across Montpellier. The first folly competition held last year was won by Farshid Moussavi Architects. Construction on the Moussavi-designed tower is set to begin this year.  

Fujimoto Montpellier

The architect’s view

‘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.

‘The new multipurpose tower called L’Arbre Blanc (The 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, we 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.

‘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.’

Fujimoto Montpellier

Project data

Location Montpellier, France
Type of project mixed-use tower  
Client City of Montpellier  
Developer Proméo and Evolis
Architect Sou Fujimoto Architects, Nicholas Laisne Associes, and Manal Rachdi Oxo Architects
Landscaping Bassinet Turquin Paysage
Structural engineer Andre Verdier
M&E consultant Frank Boutte Consultants 
Lighting consultant Odile Soudant
Start on site date July 2015
Completion date December 2017
Gross internal floor area 102,225m2

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