Inside Mark #41

The trio of new buildings in Montpellier should serve as urban catalysts, not isolated monuments.

Mark #41 has hit the shelves! So, here's a sneak peek into the December/January issue's Perspective. Based on Montpellier, we look at three buildings from iconic architects Jean Nouvel, Studio Fuksas and Zaha Hadid, probing how they managed to skip the recession. 

Michael Webb kickstarts the conversation by looking back at former Mayor George Frêche's influence on developing the city in southern France. It was his vision that led to the commission of three new buildings that tackle education, administration and culture in an evolving Montpellier.

City administrator Jules Nyssen explains: ‘Montpellier has been spared the worst effects of the European economic crisis. It is not in financial difficulties today – on the contrary, the productivity of the agglomeration has improved’.

Webb examines the influence of Nouvel's city hall design, explaining how 'it’s easy to forget that some of the finest, most enduring buildings of the 20th century were constructed during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Montpellier’s Hôtel de Ville is an apt riposte to the destructive dogma of sweeping cutbacks in public expenditures.'

Serio Pirrone observes Hadid's Pierres Vives building in detail, where Hadid comments, ‘I do not think a single building should be the symbol of an entire city... though in all of our projects we seek from the outset to create a symbol. Pierres Vives is appreciated largely for its beautiful forms. However, we understand architecture as an intimate alliance between form and function. The second should never be sacrificed for the first.’

Finally, Monica Zerboni considers Studio Fuksas' iconic contribution, Georges Frêche Hotel School, named in recognition of the Mayor's heavy contribution to the city. Fuksas demands that ‘you cannot build an icon... People decide whether a building is an icon. What we architects can aim for is a good building, a place where human beings feel at ease. This has to do with ethics, which does not mean morality. Ethics leads to the creation of a human-centred architecture. It’s about a way of thinking on “man scale” while designing a building.’

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