When the project was first announced in 2014, many waited in anticipation as renderings of L’Arbre Blanc tower surfaced. The 17-story tower is said to be modeled after the shape of a tree with balconies ‘branching out’ from the cylindrical shaped building. Located in Montpellier, France, Sou Fujimoto was joined by Nicolas Laisné, Dimitri Roussel, and OXO Architectes to complete the project.
With the 113 apartment tower fully constructed, it has stayed true to its renderings. According to the project’s press release, Fujimoto and his team aimed at recreating the idea of a tower while paying attention to the local lifestyles of the people of Montpellier. The eye-catching details of the cantilevered balconies help create a changing perspective depending on the viewer’s angle, sun positioning, and viewpoint. The cantilevered balconies not only aide in the visual aesthetic of the tower but also protect the metal facades of the structure. Since Montpellier is prone to earthquakes, the design team used a facade that was extremely light in weight to achieve maximum flexibility.
According to the design team, “This project was ambitious in numerous respects. Number one: it was the first time a city had imposed a level of architectural quality. Two: L’Arbre Blanc is a team effort by four property developers and three architecture practices. And three: we enjoyed a very rare degree of freedom on this site because it is a ‘stand-alone’ plot, with no requirement to align with any neighbors. The outline of L’Arbre Blanc is that of the roundabout on which it is located, avoiding blocking the views of the adjoining apartment block.”
Beyond its looks and technical aspects of the tower’s construction, the project aimed to create a space for the public to take ownership of the site and feel integrated within the tower. This concept, according to Fujimoto, is often lost when thinking of the conventional residential tower. “People’s lifestyles in Montpellier guided this project, which conveys a new vision of housing, one which is more harmonious and optimistic.”