Montpellier has definitely been the most interesting city I’ve seen in south of France from a merely architectural point of view. There just so much in terms of contemporary buildings and many others are currently in the making. For sure we can say that the city of Montpellier is no stranger to urban development. Internationally acclaimed architects and engineers have been called to revitalize and reshape the city, names as Jean Nouvel, Ricardo Bofill, Zaha Hadid, Massimiliano Fuksas, Philippe Starck. A new very interesting TGV station designed by a Paris-based architecture and engineering firm Marc Mimram or a new housing tower designed by Sou Fujimoto just to name a few.
The modern side of Montpellier with its contemporary architecture is absolutely fascinating. Mixed with the beauty and charm of its old historic heart.
Let’s have a look at what you can find here in Montpellier!
GARE SAINT-ROCH |JEAN-MARIE DUTHILLEUL|
The interior of this train station was the very first discovery here in Montpellier. The exterior is purely neo-classical; admire it and then step inside and go to the first floor to walk in this newly renewed nave-like space.
Place Auguste Gilbert, 34000 Montpellier
TOUR LE TRIANGLE |PIERRE TOURRE|
The tallest building you can find in Montpellier. Think about the awesome view you can get from its top!
Allée Jules Milhau, Immeuble Le Triangle, 34000 Montpellier
ANTIGONE |RICARDO BOFILL|
On the edge of the old city lies Antigone, a vast area with a mix of private and social housing. You will definitely notice its monumental scale and neo-classical buildings designed by Ricardo Bofill. The neo-classical style makes the whole site look grandiose and even more ancient than it actually is (the project started in 1979 and completed in 2000) reminding of a Greek or Roman ancient development. It’s an entire district that spreads around a central axis that connects the historic centre to the newly developing area along the river Lez.
Place du Nombre d’Or, 34000 Montpellier
MÉDIATHÈQUE EMILE ZOLA |PAUL CHEMETOV|
218 Boulevard de l’Aéroport international, 34000 Montpellier
L’ARBRE BLANC |SOU FUJIMOTO|
The White Tree is called. The 17-sories housing tower that Sou Fujimoto was called to design for the city of Montpellier. Of course I can’t wait to see it finished. It will be a good excuse to come back.
Place Christophe Colomb, 34000 Montpellier
Site Richter, Avenue Raymond Dugrand, 34960 Montpellier
NUAGE |PHILIPPE STARCK|
Strange to find a building designed by a product designer. Philippe Starck is very well-known for the pieces of furniture and products he designed but in Montpellier he went further stepping into the field of architecture with ‘Le Nuage’ fitness and wellness centre. He conceived a bubble-like facade made of an inflatable membrane that uses a special material called ETFE (the same used for the Aquatics Centre in Beijing and the Allianz Arena in Munich).
769 Avenue de la Mer-Raymond Dugrand, 34000 Montpellier
LA MANTILLA | JACQUES FERRIER |
I have to admit that I didn’t know about this enormous development but it’s pretty impossible to miss it if you walk in Port Marianne area. It’s so big and the facade so geometrical and white that you see it. The name that identifies the project says everything: mantilla is a lace or silk scarf worn by women, mainly in Spain, over the head and shoulders. That’s what this geometrical pattern recalls creating a figurative connection with Mediterranean architectural language. In this case this pattern takes the form of a lattice that wraps around the balconies and loggias.
812 Avenue de la Mer-Raymond Dugrand, 34000 Montpellier
Port Marianne is the district in the south-east part of Montpellier in which all the newly realised buildings are. It’s an area in full expansion so just walk every street and you’ll see something eye-catchy for sure.
HÔTEL DE VILLE |JEAN NOUVEL|
On the banks of the Lez, in Port Marianne area, the City Hall won’t go unnoticed. It is a bold blue-green-goldish structure, like a three-dimensional puzzle made of numerous layers of reflective steel and glass.
1 Place Georges Frêche, 34267 Montpellier
HOUSING |BERNARD BUHLER|
The use of colour is what identifies the architectural language of Bernard Buhler. He mainly realised residential projects and the common feature is a pop of colour, usually used for the balconies, as in this case.
rue des Justes, Zac Rive Gauche, Port Marianne, Montpellier
SCHOOL ANDRÉ MALRAUX |DOMINIQUE COULON|
A nursery, primary school and dedicated playground housed in these dynamic and playful stacked volumes. A remarkable building for its functionality and aesthetics.
34000, Impasse Joan Miro, 34980 Montpellier
LYCÉE GEORGES FRÊCHE |MASSIMILIANO FUKSAS|
A school of hotel management designed by the Italian architect Massimiliano Fuksas with his wife Doriana Fuksas. The sculptural shape of the building is wrapped with thousands of anodised aluminium cases in triangular shapes. Each one is unique and has its specific barcode so that it can be identified for its specific situation on the façade.
401 Rue Le Titien, 34000 Montpellier
MÉDIATHÈQUE PIERRES VIVES |ZAHA HADID|
As usual Zaha Hadid’s buildings are easily recognisable for their strong lines and identity they convey. In Montpellier she designed a sculptural concrete and glass block that accommodates a multimedia library but even a public archive and sports department. The main entrance is very impressive with that massive and solid-stone-looking cantilevered canopy.
907 Rue du Professeur Blayac, 34080 Montpellier
Among all this glass and steel the historic centre of Montpellier is such a jewel with La Place de la Comédieas its focal point. It’s such a beautiful area filled with charming alleys with leaning medieval buildings and around every corner seems to be another peculiar square with a fountain or an olive tree. Such a Mediterranean ambience.
LA GRANDE MOTTE
When in Montpellier don’t miss the chance to go to La Grande Motte! This is one of the rare cases in which a city is entirely planned and designed from scratch by one single architect. Jean Balladur is the architect that worked for 30 years on designing every single aspect of this seaside resort built in the 60’s, imposing what was his vision of the ideal city. Just as Le Corbusier did with Chandigarh in India. It’s an inspiring urban experiment that turned a formerly sand dunes’ desert area into a holiday resort with architecture inspired by the Inca pyramids in Mexico and the modernist architecture that Oscar Niemeyer designed in Brazil. Every single building is different and has its own features and characteristics but always linked to the same coherent aesthetic that gives architectural unity to the whole resort. Jean Balladur envisioned the “architecture of vacation” as a place far away from the commonplace, as a place in which space and time have to be different from those of everyday life so that the vacation resort has to be a place of escape. Such a wonderful place to discover! If you head to Montpellier keep one full day to explore La Grande Motte and then let me know what you think of it.
Now a couple of things I want to ask you.
First of all, have you been in Montpellier? If so let me know writing a comment down here. I want to know what you think of it.
And if you know the city maybe you even know other interesting or remarkable places that I should add?
I collected here everything regarding architecture to visit that you wouldn’t normally find in an ordinary travel guide. My intention is to make it useful for all the architecture lovers out there so if you have suggestions just write me and let me know.
Lastly it would be very much appreciated if you can share it with anyone you think may be interested in having a look at this guide.