Greening the City

Plant architecture

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Ville et biodiversité

The use of plants is a common theme in all architect Edouard François’s work (1). Fifteen years ago when he was starting out, he was commissioned to build a community of holiday homes near the village of Jupilles, in the Sarthe department (France). He made great use of plants in these dwellings, which were built at the edge of a forest, with the houses set within hedges. “The idea was not only to bring the village to the forest, but also the forest to the village,” he explains. Although François refuses to make systematic use of planted façades, several of his projects have since then used plants. The Flower Tower, which was completed in 2004, is a tower block of thirty council flats built in a local government development area in Asnières, in the Paris suburbs. All the balconies are decorated with huge flower pots planted with bamboo. “The building overlooks a park. So the idea was, yet again, to insert it into its environment,” he explains. Over and above this contextual choice, François thinks that there is a lot to be said for using plants. “Used on a façade, they create a separation with the outside world, prevent buildings from overheating, capture rainwater runoff, and absorb CO2. The Flower Tower’s bamboo also makes a soothing rustling sound, a little like a reed bed. The people who live there have told me that this sound has a very strong positive psychological impact on them.”
The next ‘plant challenge’ for François’s team is a fifty-meter-high apartment building, which will be built on the island of Nantes (France) for the Giboire group. “For this project we’re going to work with the botanist Claude Figureau, director of the Nantes botanical gardens, and with various nature conservation organizations," François says. “They’ll help us to cover the façade with plants that play a major role in encouraging biodiversity.” For now, it’s too soon to reveal more, apart from the fact that the building will look like a “giant cucumber”.
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CNRS    sagascience