Flower Tower is a social housing project designed by the French architect and green wall designer Édouard François. The ten-storey building is located in the 17th arrondissement of Paris and was completed in 2004. Easy to say which is the building’s most distinguishing feature: 380 potted bamboo plants as an integral part of the building.
With this realisation Édouard François aimed to lower the boundaries between architecture and nature making the bamboo plots inseparable from the building’s structure. The result is a “living building”.
As said the 1-meter-high prefabricated concrete pots were set into the concrete structure so that they cannot be moved and the bamboo plants are fed and watered automatically through artificial stems running inside the metal balustrades of each storey. Important note is that the automatic watering system uses recycled rain water.
Bamboo was chosen as it grows quickly providing natural sunshade for the flats during the summer months and screens from the facing buildings providing more privacy. The bamboo’s function consists in making the apartments more livable and desirable, plus the greenery provides natural shade, cooling and privacy for the residents. However the name “flower tower” is somehow misleading because bamboo has no flowers.
The plants cover three sides of the building with the northern facade displaying plain concrete in a grey and white blend that gives it a sort of 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 a raw aesthetic that would make the plants look more glamorous by contrast.
The Flower Tower embodies the expression of desire for nature in the city and it is thought to be the vertical continuation of the adjacent park as Édouard François explains in the project presentation.
And lastly, the architect Édouard François has been so kind to accept to answer to a couple of questions I had about Flower Tower. I thank him again and I hope you will enjoy these few more details and curiosities about his work.
Q. Flower Tower is one of the first examples of green towers, what inspired you to put vegetation in a residential tower’s facade? Was it a functional or aesthetical reason that moved you towards it?
It was a contextual choice, inspired by the park in front of the project. The tower is the vertical continuation of this park. Its giant flower pots, hanging from the balconies, were inspired by Parisian window planters that can be in themselves botanical treasures. Moreover bamboo plots allowed the inhabitants to enjoy their rustling and a light filtered by the foliage.
Q. What has been the biggest technical issue to overcome during the designing process and/or the construction stage due to the presence of plants?
The project needed light but strong structural elements so the plots of the façade were one of the first applications of Ductal (by Lafarge). Ductal® is a high-tech construction material (Ultra-High Performance Concrete – UHPC), with the superior qualities of resistance to compression, ductility, longevity, eco-efficiency, insulation and aesthetics. So it was quite suitable for building the Tower Flower and its plots facade.
Q. After years the tower has been completed do you still consider bamboo as an optimal choice or would you select another species for this particular project?
Bamboo was the optimal choice in 2004 : it grows fast, it’s beautiful and very resistant. That was the more important thing at that time, because people were not used to see planted façades. Plants had to be simple and efficient. However bamboo is not a local plant, so it is not the best choice to regenerate Parisian biodiversity. Today we can do more ambitious and sustainable choices : delivered in 2016, our M6B2 Tower of Biodiversity is covered with plants from wild local natural areas. It’s a tool for seeding: it allows the wind to spread class one purebred seeds into the urban environment.
Q. If you are monitoring the enegy performance of Flower Tower do you know if the bamboo facade reduces the energy demand of the building?
We don’t monitor the energy of the Tower Flower, but inhabitants tell us that it’s very cool and fresh in summer: so they don’t need air conditioning.
Rue Hérold, Paris, France