Wednesday 25 May 2011

The Tower Flower

When it was built seven years ago, Edouard Francois's 'Tower Flower' caused quite a sensation in Paris, but how is it ageing today?

Containing 380 pots of bamboo on ten stories, the building itself is almost invisible behind its herbaceous curtain. It is situated on the edge of the jardin Claire Motte in the 17th arrondissement, and was designed to be a vertical extension of this space, both for those in the garden and those living in the building. The pots cannot be moved and are fixed to an automatic watering system (using recycled rain water) to ensure that the bamboo is not killed by careless residents!

Bamboo was chosen because it is a hardy and fast growing plant, but also because it makes a noise in the wind, "giving the impression to those inside that they are sleeping in a tree" explains Edouard François.

The plants cover three sides of the building, with the northern face (hidden from the sun) displaying plain concrete in a curious grey/white blend that gives it an unfinished look. According to the architect, this was a deliberate choice as he wanted to create a ying and yang effect between the attractive and the ugly, and also to provide something raw that would make the plants look more glamourous in contrast.

The interior of the building was also carefully designed. There is no entrance hall, but instead a glass elevator facing out from the building towards the park (through the bamboo) takes residents up to each floor (although presumably there is also a fire escape staircase somewhere) . Secondly, a complete lack of internal supporting walls means that inhabitants can change and adapt their apartments as they wish.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the building is that it offers social housing and was reasonably cheap to build. Seven years later though, how well is it ageing?

It is still a striking sight, and the jardin Claire Motte in front of it has matured very nicely. The bamboo is not in perfect condition, but certainly in a better state than could have been expected - meaning that the building still retains its contrasts and has not become purely ugly! The neighbourhood surrounding the building is clean and quiet, and seems like it would be a nice place to live, which must be judged a success given its position alongside the Saint Lazare railway lines and the périphérique motorway.

If you do venture out to see this building, note that there are two other points of interest. In the park you can see some remains of the Thiers fortifications that surrounded Paris in the 19th century (and the only place in Paris where they can still be touched according to the local authorities!). Behind this wall, is the Salle Berthier belonging to the Opéra Comique, and which is used for storage, rehearsals and occasional performances.

The Tower Flower
23, rue Albert Roussel

75017 Paris

M° Porte de Clichy

For more information:


Suze said...

Fantastic, timely post. I know it seems a bit odd to call it timely but I won't go into why. It just is. Thank you.

Adam said...

Hello Suze - glad to be of service!

A visit from someone called 'Suze' is rather timely too, seeing as I previously spoke of ghost signs and forgotten apéritif drinks...

Thérèse said...

It is nice to see and to read that such a well planned project is still doing great!

Anonymous said...

It looks as though it would be very dark in those apartments.

Anonymous said...

Adam, as you might imagine, I was fascinated by this post! The concept is extraordinary and it was so brave actually to construct it! I see from the architects' website that the Guardian reported it one of the best places to live in Paris.
It's interesting to me to see what the bamboo has done in the 7 years since it was installed - some of it seems to have died, and the rest is clearly being given a haircut: the early photos show tall, leggy plants, while now they are thick and short and bushy. That must be quite a job for someone!
Thanks for posting, I feel a trip to the 17th coming on, to see for myself!

Adam said...

Anonymous: The apartments do not seem to be dark in the film, and the architect's objective was rather to direct most of the 'living' rooms towards the south in order to increase the amount of sunlight they would see.

Jill: I've found links to a company that installed the automatic watering system, but there is no mention of ongoing gardening. Are the residents themselves expected to take care of that?

In all the material I've found relating to this building, the voice of the residents seems to be completely absent. I simply don't know what they think about living in such an environment, and what the advantages and drawbacks are.

What is sure is that they would have to completely buy in to the vision of the architect, and it is this restrictive element that would probably annoy me personally. If a resident decided one day that they wanted a clear, unobstructed view out on to the park, well it would be tough luck basically!

Smart_Margauz said...

This tower flower is awesome! I really love it. Sam's

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