Each layered balcony (or leaf) in this design gives this French building a dense "tree"-look.
Rendering by RSI-STUDIO Each layered balcony (or leaf) in this design gives this French building a dense "tree"-look.

The city of Montpellier, France will be getting a modern facelift in the next few years, after commencing its architectural competition to build 12 contemporary buildings that will shape the city’s new, urban landscape.

And at the center of that upgrade is an ambitious, multilayer mixed-use building that gives new meaning to modular design; the designers are touting a “free-choice architecture,” plan that will allow potential tenants the opportunity to select a series of interior spaces to configure their own unique floor plan, instead of choosing an existing, pre-made design.

Located between the local city center and Montpellier’s traditional neighborhood, the Arbre Blanc (White Tree) is the brainchild of Tokyo-based Sou Fujimoto Architects and Paris-based firms OXO Architects and Nicolas Laisne Associates. The Mediterranean and Japanese cultural fusion led to an enigmatic design that will serve as home to a restaurant, art gallery, offices, and residential units. It offers the public a free-flowing movement between each of the spaces that encourages outdoor living.

Rendering by RSI-STUDIO
Rendering by RSI-STUDIO

It’s designed like a tree, with each branch, or extension of a balcony, sprouting out of its base to offer shade and creating a dense layered effect. At 17 stories and more than 32,000 square feet of surface area, this community will command the city’s skyline while providing panoramic views of the city, its ocean, and nearby mountains.

Construction will begin on July 2015, and is expected to wrap up in 2017.

-Linsey Isaacs is an assistant editor with Multifamily Executive magazine. Follow her on twitter @LinseyI  to continue this conversation.