Sou Fujimoto plans Bordeaux’s timber tower

Nick Myall
Wednesday 16 Mar 2016

This 50 m tall residential building with a timber frame structure will be one of the tallest structures of this type in the world

This mixed-use development (residential properties, offices, panoramic bar, shops, shared spaces), designed by Sou Fujimoto Architects, is to be found at the intersection of Rue Cazeaux and Rue Beck in Bordeaux's Gare Saint Jean neighbourhood. It includes 199 homes, 3,770 sq m of office space and 500 sq m of retail outlets. Canopia, as the development is known, aims to become a focal point within the city. It is an urban landmark which, come nightfall, becomes a lighthouse or a star in the skyline of this regional city. Residents and visitors to the city will enjoy a unique vantage point over the surrounding region.  With its handsome proportions, generous outdoor spaces, and environmentally friendly qualities, the tower proposed for Canopia has plenty to recommend it. All the residents in the development will be able to enjoy the panoramic views from the collective roof gardens.

The Bordeaux city planning authorities put out an invitation to tender in December 2015 for a mixed-use development including a 50 m tall residential building with a timber frame structure. On completion, this will be one of the tallest structures of this type in the world. Developers and architects were consulted in relation to a 17,000 sq m plot, as part of phase two of the Amargnac sector of the Bordeaux Saint-Jean Belcier ZAC (urban development zone). As well as supporting the development of an entire sector, this initiative contributes to fighting climate change. The multi-disciplinary team made up of developer Pitch Promotion, architects Sou Fujimoto Architects and laisné roussel, timber construction engineering firm Mathis, economist Faure, environmental engineering agency Le Sommer Environnment, landscaping team Etablissement, acousticians Emacoustic and the building control office Apave, worked together closely to put forward this proposal.

What sets this project apart is the proposal for a collection of themed rooftop gardens connected by walkways. Particular attention has been paid to delivering quality shared spaces, both on the fringes of the site with the terrace gardens or at the heart of the development with the green oasis. This playful experience invites residents and visitors to wander, relax and contemplate the landscape of the Bordeaux region. Residents are thus given access to a series of gardens: an agricultural space with vegetable gardens, fruit trees, vines, a compost area and water reservoirs, a winter garden, a terrace for the restaurant and a rooftop playground. These raised walkways are unique in Bordeaux, and offer unparalleled views of the hills and the Garonne. Canopia emerges as a major architectural innovation in the contemporary landscape, with the inclusion of a structure which embodies the ambitions of the city of Bordeaux.

The wooden frame for the high-rise building has been meticulously studied since the tender phase to validate the different technical construction solutions and put in place a design and innovation management team responsible for implementing the project (phasing and identification of key phases, problem solving, etc.) The structure is made from silver fir or spruce beams and posts. The floors are made from cross-laminated timber (silver fir or spruce) using the Mathis ATEX technique for high-rise buildings. Glued laminated timber bars are incorporated into the post and beam frame to stabilise the tower. All the buildings in the project therefore aim to achieve "Biosourcé" certification. An H&E A-rating is being sought for the homes. As for the offices, they have double HQE® BREEAM certification to guarantee their environmental performance]

Nick Myall

News Editor

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