ArchDaily | Broadcasting Architecture Worldwidethe world's most visited architecture website

Sign up now and start saving and organizing your favorite architecture projects and photos


Find the most inspiring products for your projects in our Product Catalog.


Get the ArchDaily Chrome Extension and be inspired with every new tab. Install here »

  1. ArchDaily
  2. Competitions
  3. Sou Fujimoto-Led Team Designs Tree-Inspired Housing Tower for Montpellier

Sou Fujimoto-Led Team Designs Tree-Inspired Housing Tower for Montpellier

Sou Fujimoto-Led Team Designs Tree-Inspired Housing Tower for Montpellier
Sou Fujimoto-Led Team Designs Tree-Inspired Housing Tower for Montpellier, © RSI-studio
© RSI-studio

The City of Montpellier has chosen Sou Fujimoto Architects, Nicolas Laisné Associés and Manal Rachdi Oxo architects’ “White Tree (L’Arbre Blanc)” as winner of the "Architectural Folie of the 21st Century" competition. Inspired by the city’s tradition of outdoor living, and the efficient properties of a tree, the mixed-use residential tower will feed off locally available natural resources as it rises 17-stories and connects the new and old districts of Montpellier. 

© RSI-studio
© RSI-studio

From the Winning Team: 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, 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.

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 neighboring residences.

© RSI-studio
© RSI-studio

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.

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.

© RSI-studio
© RSI-studio

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.

© RSI-studio
© RSI-studio

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.

The architects sought to encourage free-choice architecture, which they see as underpinning tomorrow's housing trend where everyone starts with a “housing stock” when they buy their flat and are not confined to manufactured articles, regimented layouts, turnkey spaces. Instead they are given possibilities, modular interior spaces they can choose from a catalogue of optional features and floor plans.

© RSI-studio
© RSI-studio

Just like a tree, the tower will feed off its locally available natural resources to drastically reduce the energy it needs to expend. It will devise passive strategies to induce comfort and use as well as control environmental impacts and scale back emissions. An unconventional yet dialectical process will passively cool units with solar fireplaces.

Arbre Blanc is the tallest “Folie” in Montpellier's architectural arsenal and is looking become the city's focal point, a landmark that serves as a lighthouse or guiding star at night amid the regional urban skyline.

An exclusive outlook on the surrounding area, a gift to all the city's residents and visitors. A starting point from where the vista branches out and your eyes can take it all in: the land's silhouettes, the open water, the longing it creates for far-off lands and Montpellier's rich historical heritage. Erected in a pivotal location for the city, at its core Arbre Blanc is the very symbol of the Mediterranean, the 'mid-land sea' that has forever been a crossroads, a meeting point between Europe, Africa and Asia.

© RSI-studio
© RSI-studio
  • Competition

    La Folie architecturale de Richter
  • Award

    First Prize
  • Project Name

    L’Arbre Blanc (The White Tree)
  • Location

    Montpellier, France
  • Sou Fujimoto Architect in Charge

    Sou Fujimoto, Marie de France
  • Nicolas Laisné Associés Architects in Charge

    Nicolas Laisné, Dimitri Roussel, Lucile Nicosia
  • Manal Rachdi OXO architects Architects in Charge

    Manal Rachdi, Vincent Imfeld
  • Development

    Promeo Patrimoine Gilbert Ganivenq, Cyrill Meynadier Evolis Promotion Francis Lamazère, Alain Gillet Surface
  • Structural Engineer

    Andre Verdier
  • Design and Environmental Engineering

    Frank Boutte Consultants
  • Landscaping

    Bassinet Turquin Paysage
  • Lighting Designer

    Odile Soudant
  • Inspections

    SOCOTEC, Casso & Associes
  • Renderings

    RSI studio, Manal Rachdi OXO architectes, Nicolas Laisné Associés
  • Area

    10225.0 sqm
  • Photographs

More about the project can be found on its official website, here

Reference: The City of Montpellier, Bustler

Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address. Cite: Karissa Rosenfield. "Sou Fujimoto-Led Team Designs Tree-Inspired Housing Tower for Montpellier" 07 Mar 2014. ArchDaily. Accessed . <>
Read comments


Joe_3 · September 25, 2016

Was this ever approved?

annie · March 12, 2014

whoopee! can we tear down the triangle to celebrate?

Seebear The Great · March 11, 2014

how much does the media get, just to put up his boring workssssss?

Dean · March 10, 2014

Although I think the idea has merit and the rendering paints an aesthetically pleasing result, the idea of Privacy has been completely overlooked here, and once planning drawings are lodged the amount of screens required will add an entirely new foliage to this façade.

sensey · March 10, 2014

lot of balconies = less light inside each apartment

Bassel · March 09, 2014

Tree inspired? looks more like a scaly palm trunk or an artishock. Sorry but the post-rationalization won't cut it. More effort is needed to refine this miss of a facade.

leo · March 09, 2014

this guy won't last long..

i bet

Sepideh · March 09, 2014

oh,I cant see the original form .but can see just balconis.i,m confused

Mariano Managò · March 08, 2014

randomness isn't artistic, it's pure vacuity, sou!

Trent · March 08, 2014

Nothing but a typical architectural pipe dream. Can you even begin to imagine the leak/drainage problems! Not to mention excess grey water dripping from balcony to balcony to balcony etc...

Jói Sig · March 08, 2014
Axio · March 10, 2014 09:21 PM

I think you missed iron's sarcasm. Identifying the balconies and cantilevers is child's play, but the point is that they are way too large and the structure is obviously highly undersized in the rendering. Its a common technique to show something pretty and impossible by conveniently leaving out necessary elements. In this case, what was left out was the structural elements/sizes to allow such large cantilevers.

iron · March 08, 2014

Uuh? Can somebody explain the magic behind the balconies levitation? Is that a new technology that allows anti-gravitational elements to be hung on the facades?

Cedrik · March 08, 2014 07:54 AM

is that jumping platform for diving?

cccp · March 08, 2014 06:58 AM

It seems that the balconies are connected with the facade by some diagonal rods.But obviously, the rods are extremely thin.

Heywood Floyd · March 08, 2014 01:27 AM

Why not discuss it more constructively? Try this:

These schematic renderings seem a bit too aggressive in terms of what they are showing for the structure of those balconies.

You are welcome.

Axio · March 07, 2014

Few buildings have pulled off large exposed balconies well, esp once the building has aged a few years. Its easy enough to make it look beautiful in a rendering, but in reality, after even just a few years of weathering, most such balconies look more like sores than beauty marks. Hopefully Fujimoto and team can pull it off, but I have misgivings.


Comments are closed

Read comments