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Secret Garden

Zac EAI, Quartier de la Cité Créative, Montpellier, France

117 HOUSINGS, ZAC EAI, CREATIVE CITY DISTRICT, MONTPELLIER

Vincent Callebaut Architectures is the winner – in a consortium with Bouygues Immobilier Languedoc-Roussillon, Vestia Promotion & Emmanuelle Navarro Architecte – of the SERM/SA3M group's call for projects for a 4,014 m² property in the City of Montpellier within the ZAC EAI, the beating heart of the new Creative City, crossroads of Cultural and Creative Industries. 

The programme for our "Secret Gardens" includes 117 apartements – 30% of which are in the form of affordable housing – divided between three buildings, promoting a residential experience in an environment where social cohesion, well-being and living together are paramount.

Accommodation that is more environmentally friendly and responsible: affordable, spacious and green, thanks in particular to the natural and bio-sourced materials used, the generous plant cover of the private spaces and in the heart of the plot, the rainwater harvesting and the recycling of greywater creating a urban island of freshness, the enjoyment of large intimate loggias, assisted natural ventilation, photovoltaic above the rooftops with living areas, as well as greenhouses dedicated to urban agriculture guaranteeing the creation of a positive energy and low carbon impact building that respects the environment and its inhabitants.

SOBRIETY AND MILITARY PRAGMATISM AT THE SERVICE OF GENIUS LOCI 

Located in Montpellier since 1967, the Ecole d'Application de l'Infanterie (EAI) left the city in 2010. Located a 15-minute walk from the city centre, surrounded by suburban neighbourhoods and small residential buildings, the site covers 35 hectares. The urban project is part of the "Ecoquartier approach" approved by the French Ministry of Ecological Transition. 

Secret, intimate, hidden, the Ecole d'Application de l'Infanterie wants to continue to cultivate this sober and pragmatic architectural identity both in its built spaces and in its environmental approach. The aim here is to open up and integrate smoothly into the suburbs of Montpellier.

The "Secret Gardens" project is inspired by the military history of the site, represented by the neighbouring historic buildings with their perfectly organised and streamlined architecture, the rehabilitated "Lorraine" building (lot 2F) and the former cinema, which will be rebuilt in its original form, called "Le Cocon". 

The ambition is to enhance the existing site through a seamless approach to highlight the identity of the place, the memories, the history and the very special atmosphere of this remarkable site located less than a kilometre as the crow flies from the historic centre. Respect and humility guide us in our efforts to propose new living conditions where the new integrates with the old, enriching it without threatening it. 

A real alternative to urban sprawl, the "Secret Gardens" project invents a sober architecture "to be shared" that invites nature and biodiversity to come and cosy up in all spaces, whether public, shared or private.

Building in the Mediterranean is also a very sensitive process. You have to be guided by common sense, especially when it comes to climate and materials. Buildings are going to be exposed all year round and through all seasons, so their exteriors have to be designed accordingly, working in harmony with nature. It is also a story of light. Extremely bright, it creates highly contrasting shadows that can be used to animate the architecture by inventing facades in the form of mashrabiyas.

A CREATIVE ARCHITECTURE AT THE SERVICE OF WELL-BEING AND SUSTAINABILITY

History has taught us to consider the possible future uses of buildings as early as possible in the design process. Hyper-flexible buildings that are largely open to hanging gardens that must be able to accommodate the constant shifts in the family/intergenerational unit on the one hand and the necessary interplay between our private and professional lives on the other. Indeed, in the wake of the COVID-19 health crisis and teleworking, there is an increasingly obvious blurring of the lines between work and home.

Faced with the planned obsolescence of building production, it seems essential to change the conceptual approach in order to cope with this extremely rapid societal development and to respond to the environmental and health issues that characterise our time. Haussmann's historic heritage shows us every day its resilience, its extraordinary resistance to time and to the developments in society... the reversible, modular, mutable building that minimises the extent and cost of adaptations is not a utopia, quite the contrary.

The result of this proactive approach is an ultra-streamlined yet sensitive architecture, with the structure and articulation of facades partly prefabricated off-site, serialised and standardised. This military methodology allows the housing and all the activity spaces to evolve in order to best meet the needs of future users. Through the diversity of housing types from T2 to T5, the project ensures a variety of occupations (urban diversity) and uses (functional diversity) with the aim of producing a high-quality urban morphology based on greater compactness, fighting against horizontal urban sprawl and soil sealing. 

In addition to offering peace and quiet, privacy, natural light and unobstructed views, this curved architecture offers non-standard possibilities for finishing, customisation and transformation (rooms and floor plan) in response to changing life circumstances. 

The multiplicity of residential trajectories and the diversity of lifestyles, cultures and social practices generate contrasting expectations that are poorly adapted to housing products that are overly formulaic. Our responses to all of these expectations allow each individual to have "his or her own home", i.e., a setting and quality of life that he or she can freely choose. 

LOW-CARBON AND GREEN HOUSING, DEMONSTRATING THE BIOPHILIC CITY OF TOMORROW

Through the creation of a supply of biophilic housing, it is a question of responding to this demand so that life in the neighbourhood is at once a source of well-being, social cohesion, and even a catalyst for social connections and pride in living in his or her own residence. The aspirations of the younger generation to enjoy a living environment that is both conducive to health and environmentally sustainable are particularly pronounced in urban areas. 

Towards RE2020, our five main environmental objectives are:

1. A frugal and low-carbon approach to materials: 0% clinker concrete structure with a carbon footprint reduction of between 40 and 70%, interior insulation made from Camargue rice straw, concrete façade cladding in sand, sienna and terracotta colours, clay-based earth render, a natural material par excellence.

2. A significant reduction in energy consumption by integrating the rules of bioclimatism (path of the sun, natural lighting, natural ventilation, vegetation, rainwater harvesting, etc.) Centralized biomass boiler producing domestic hot water, assisted natural ventilation, roofs and balconies with appropriate greenery, open-ground mini-forest in the heart of the block to retain rainwater, recycling of greywater from bathrooms and kitchens to irrigate plants and sanitary facilities, composting of organic waste.

3. Massive renewable energy production: Photovoltaic solar canopies producing electricity for self-consumption by the co-owners.

4. Co-cultivated urban agriculture: collective orchard planted in the open ground in the heart of the block, greenhouses dedicated to urban agriculture on the roof of building 2C3 West, and permaculture urban gardening on roofs 2C1, 2C2 and 2C3 East.

5. Shared electric soft mobility: shared parking with a fleet of electric vehicles, application to encourage carpooling, well-maintained bicycle rooms on the ground floor of each building.

"Secret Gardens" proposes a new type of "living ecosystem" by creating a high-quality green neighbourhood with a low carbon footprint, partially generating its own energy and recycling its own waste into resources. Its organic architecture combines the sobriety of ordered architecture with strategies of plant camouflage inspired by military latticework to further magnify the Genius Loci of the former Ecole d'Application de l'Infanterie renamed "The Creative City".

117 HOUSINGS, ZAC EAI, CREATIVE CITY DISTRICT, MONTPELLIER

Vincent Callebaut Architectures is the winner – in a consortium with Bouygues Immobilier Languedoc-Roussillon, Vestia Promotion & Emmanuelle Navarro Architecte – of the SERM/SA3M group's call for projects for a 4,014 m² property in the City of Montpellier within the ZAC EAI, the beating heart of the new Creative City, crossroads of Cultural and Creative Industries. 

The programme for our "Secret Gardens" includes 117 apartements – 30% of which are in the form of affordable housing – divided between three buildings, promoting a residential experience in an environment where social cohesion, well-being and living together are paramount.

Accommodation that is more environmentally friendly and responsible: affordable, spacious and green, thanks in particular to the natural and bio-sourced materials used, the generous plant cover of the private spaces and in the heart of the plot, the rainwater harvesting and the recycling of greywater creating a urban island of freshness, the enjoyment of large intimate loggias, assisted natural ventilation, photovoltaic above the rooftops with living areas, as well as greenhouses dedicated to urban agriculture guaranteeing the creation of a positive energy and low carbon impact building that respects the environment and its inhabitants.

SOBRIETY AND MILITARY PRAGMATISM AT THE SERVICE OF GENIUS LOCI 

Located in Montpellier since 1967, the Ecole d'Application de l'Infanterie (EAI) left the city in 2010. Located a 15-minute walk from the city centre, surrounded by suburban neighbourhoods and small residential buildings, the site covers 35 hectares. The urban project is part of the "Ecoquartier approach" approved by the French Ministry of Ecological Transition. 

Secret, intimate, hidden, the Ecole d'Application de l'Infanterie wants to continue to cultivate this sober and pragmatic architectural identity both in its built spaces and in its environmental approach. The aim here is to open up and integrate smoothly into the suburbs of Montpellier.

The "Secret Gardens" project is inspired by the military history of the site, represented by the neighbouring historic buildings with their perfectly organised and streamlined architecture, the rehabilitated "Lorraine" building (lot 2F) and the former cinema, which will be rebuilt in its original form, called "Le Cocon". 

The ambition is to enhance the existing site through a seamless approach to highlight the identity of the place, the memories, the history and the very special atmosphere of this remarkable site located less than a kilometre as the crow flies from the historic centre. Respect and humility guide us in our efforts to propose new living conditions where the new integrates with the old, enriching it without threatening it. 

A real alternative to urban sprawl, the "Secret Gardens" project invents a sober architecture "to be shared" that invites nature and biodiversity to come and cosy up in all spaces, whether public, shared or private.

Building in the Mediterranean is also a very sensitive process. You have to be guided by common sense, especially when it comes to climate and materials. Buildings are going to be exposed all year round and through all seasons, so their exteriors have to be designed accordingly, working in harmony with nature. It is also a story of light. Extremely bright, it creates highly contrasting shadows that can be used to animate the architecture by inventing facades in the form of mashrabiyas.

A CREATIVE ARCHITECTURE AT THE SERVICE OF WELL-BEING AND SUSTAINABILITY

History has taught us to consider the possible future uses of buildings as early as possible in the design process. Hyper-flexible buildings that are largely open to hanging gardens that must be able to accommodate the constant shifts in the family/intergenerational unit on the one hand and the necessary interplay between our private and professional lives on the other. Indeed, in the wake of the COVID-19 health crisis and teleworking, there is an increasingly obvious blurring of the lines between work and home.

Faced with the planned obsolescence of building production, it seems essential to change the conceptual approach in order to cope with this extremely rapid societal development and to respond to the environmental and health issues that characterise our time. Haussmann's historic heritage shows us every day its resilience, its extraordinary resistance to time and to the developments in society... the reversible, modular, mutable building that minimises the extent and cost of adaptations is not a utopia, quite the contrary.

The result of this proactive approach is an ultra-streamlined yet sensitive architecture, with the structure and articulation of facades partly prefabricated off-site, serialised and standardised. This military methodology allows the housing and all the activity spaces to evolve in order to best meet the needs of future users. Through the diversity of housing types from T2 to T5, the project ensures a variety of occupations (urban diversity) and uses (functional diversity) with the aim of producing a high-quality urban morphology based on greater compactness, fighting against horizontal urban sprawl and soil sealing. 

In addition to offering peace and quiet, privacy, natural light and unobstructed views, this curved architecture offers non-standard possibilities for finishing, customisation and transformation (rooms and floor plan) in response to changing life circumstances. 

The multiplicity of residential trajectories and the diversity of lifestyles, cultures and social practices generate contrasting expectations that are poorly adapted to housing products that are overly formulaic. Our responses to all of these expectations allow each individual to have "his or her own home", i.e., a setting and quality of life that he or she can freely choose. 

LOW-CARBON AND GREEN HOUSING, DEMONSTRATING THE BIOPHILIC CITY OF TOMORROW

Through the creation of a supply of biophilic housing, it is a question of responding to this demand so that life in the neighbourhood is at once a source of well-being, social cohesion, and even a catalyst for social connections and pride in living in his or her own residence. The aspirations of the younger generation to enjoy a living environment that is both conducive to health and environmentally sustainable are particularly pronounced in urban areas. 

Towards RE2020, our five main environmental objectives are:

1. A frugal and low-carbon approach to materials: 0% clinker concrete structure with a carbon footprint reduction of between 40 and 70%, interior insulation made from Camargue rice straw, concrete façade cladding in sand, sienna and terracotta colours, clay-based earth render, a natural material par excellence.

2. A significant reduction in energy consumption by integrating the rules of bioclimatism (path of the sun, natural lighting, natural ventilation, vegetation, rainwater harvesting, etc.) Centralized biomass boiler producing domestic hot water, assisted natural ventilation, roofs and balconies with appropriate greenery, open-ground mini-forest in the heart of the block to retain rainwater, recycling of greywater from bathrooms and kitchens to irrigate plants and sanitary facilities, composting of organic waste.

3. Massive renewable energy production: Photovoltaic solar canopies producing electricity for self-consumption by the co-owners.

4. Co-cultivated urban agriculture: collective orchard planted in the open ground in the heart of the block, greenhouses dedicated to urban agriculture on the roof of building 2C3 West, and permaculture urban gardening on roofs 2C1, 2C2 and 2C3 East.

5. Shared electric soft mobility: shared parking with a fleet of electric vehicles, application to encourage carpooling, well-maintained bicycle rooms on the ground floor of each building.

"Secret Gardens" proposes a new type of "living ecosystem" by creating a high-quality green neighbourhood with a low carbon footprint, partially generating its own energy and recycling its own waste into resources. Its organic architecture combines the sobriety of ordered architecture with strategies of plant camouflage inspired by military latticework to further magnify the Genius Loci of the former Ecole d'Application de l'Infanterie renamed "The Creative City".

  • FIRM

    Vincent Cellebaut Architectures

  • Type

    Units, Apartments, Flats, Townhouses

  • Area Size

    8950 Sqm

  • Design Style

    Contemporary, Futuristic

  • Architect / Designer

    Emmanuelle Navarro

  • Location

    Overseas

  • Status

    In Progress

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