ellen van loon
... is a versatile folly to be realized in support of Montpellier’s bid for European Capital of Culture in 2028.
Conceived as a new interface between Montpellier and the sea, the design celebrates the proximity to the sea and the site’s former existence as an ancient Roman port. Montpellier’s tradition of building folies dates back to the 18th century; our project will be a new chapter. The project will add 12,500 sqm of housing and office space to the city, as well as a public event venue, a rooftop restaurant and a second rooftop dedicated to sports.
This is a key project during my internship at OMA, led firstly by Laurence Boolhaar, later Saskia Simon and partner-in-charge Ellen van Loon. Having joined the project a week into the competition, I aimed to introduce a proposal that would mediate between a sufficiently well-articulated yet catchy and "likeable" massing. The billboard aspect of the folly was key for all parties at the table. Thus came the pebbles - a design language stemming from the local Mediterranean context but also capturing the spirit of excitement and growth of the young metropolis of Montpellier.
The process was a difficult one. The eggs (as called internally in the office) were hard to break. It proved to be an unforgiving shape. We tackled it from all sides - made 3d models, physical models, wrote, discussed etc. and finally the eggs cracked. Superimposing gradient in both vertical and horizontal direction proved a sensible idea. The front event pebble became more solid, and gradually opening up through the middle office pebble to the almost ephemeral co-living one. The base is a became a sculptural plinth capable of accommodating additional events and mediating a smooth transition to the park. Although hated by some, the pebbles became a weird conversation-generator, possibly perfectly fulfilling its destiny.
PROGRAMME: co-living, offices, events
LOCATION: Montpellier, France
STATUS: APS+APD stages 2+3 - concept + developed design