MONTPELLIER – The fastest growing city in France for the last 25 years has lately seen substantial development around an unassuming lake just southeast of the city centre in the new Port Marianne district. ‘Le Bassin Jacques Cœur’, by which it is commonly known, required a major mixed-use facility that would respond to the urban identity defining much of the city’s new infrastructure.
Parisian firm Jacques Ferrier responded with ‘La Mantilla’. The 32,000-sqm complex of buildings surrounds a raised central court with a lush hanging garden that is accessed by one of three grand staircases from street level, at once establishing a distinct structure and providing a spacious social atmosphere. The volumes execute a strong vertical motion to further strengthen the project’s presence, yet retain a tonal simplicity and visual harmony that intend to convey, as the architects claim, ‘simply a building in the city, both generous and useful’.
This modesty does not mean mediocrity, however. The titular imagery of ‘La Mantilla’ refers to a lace veil common in traditional Spanish fashion, and it has inspired the pristine lattice of stonework that forms the outer envelopes of the buildings. A unifying element for the sprawling assembly, it also serves as a reinterpretation of Montpellier’s historic Mediterranean architecture.