Inspired by nature, this architectural collaboration between French and Japanese architects conceives a mixed development surrounded by trees; not just a dozen of them, but a thousand!
Words by Isabelle Pinto | Photography by Sou Fujimoto Architecs + Manal Rachdi Oxo
Architectes + Compagnie de Phalsbourg + Ogic + Morph
There is a poem by the infamous 20th-century Irish poet, William Butler Yeats about having a cabin on a lake island called Innisfree. In his poem, he speaks of his dream to retreat to the island and live amongst nature where he could find some peace and tranquillity. I’m sure many nature lovers out there from time to time have a similar longing to live in a natural haven, especially if your home is in a typical city where nature and greenery are scarce. However, the prospect of having a cabin in a secluded natural environment can be rather daunting considering the fact that you’ll be away from civilisation and the rest of the world. Also, you would need to be diligent enough to grow your own crops and rear your own animals to sustain a living.
But not to worry, architects and developers nowadays are becoming increasingly aware of the need to incorporate more natural elements such as plants and trees into the building design. And so, it is now more common in many cities to see developments such as condominiums and apartments with lush green landscaping and garden terraces that lets you experience nature in your own dwelling. A French and a Japanese architectural studio, however, have decided to take this concept to a whole new level by bringing a whole forest to the city!
What is now merely a parking lot at the edge of Paris will be transformed into something extraordinary – a huge, ship- like building called “Thousand Trees” that would, literally, be planted with 1,000 trees. It is as though they have decided to build another Noah’s Ark, but this time round it is not to battle the floods but to battle global warming, pollution, and the various other environmental issues triggered by the lack of nature and greenery in today’s concrete jungle.
The development will essentially feature small single-family homes and apartments, offices, restaurants, a 4-star hotel, a day care centre and even an ultra-modern bus station; whilst also doubling up as a pedestrian bridge over the ring road of Paris. The building would be multi-layered with the pedestrian bridge serving the lower level. The houses, offices and other amenities, on the other hand, would be housed on a higher level. There would also be a public park at the bottom of the building for recreation.
This results in a self-sustained development akin to a village on its own. As quoted by the Japanese architect collaborating on the project, Sou Fujimoto, “Thousand Trees is like a floating village in the middle of a forest, in Paris. Its underlying concept is a new way of living in an urban environment which intimately combines nature and architecture in a special way.”
Manal Rachdi from Paris-based OXO Architects – who also partnered in the design – likened the entire structure to “an inhabited natural ecosystem, where the apartments, the offices, the hotel and the daycare are surrounded by nature.”
From the onset, both architectural innovators were very enthusiastic about introducing biodiversity to the city. In fact, the project would also include a House of Biodiversity, managed by France’s League of the Protection of Birds. This unique place will also hold educational classes and workshops.
REUNITING THE CITY CENTRE & SUBURBS
Quite interestingly, the chosen location for this innovative development is right across the ring road of Paris. This is essentially a highway which separates the city centre from the suburbs, creating a huge gap between the two. The Thousand Trees project would therefore act as a bridge, connecting the two spaces once again as everyone would be able to easily cross the highway through the building.
Further emphasising on sustainability, the entire building would be running on a combination of solar, wind and geothermal energy. And what’s even more impressive is the fact that all the different parts of the development would be connected by an “energy loop”, meaning if one building produces extra energy, that energy can be used by another building that needs it. Construction of the building will begin in the next two years, and it is expected to be completed by 2021 or 2022.[/ihc-hide-content]