In Montpellier, So Wood or the hanging gardens of Port Marianne

Stepped buildings aligned on the street, active and varied roofs, a southern opening onto the landscape, and inhabited inner courtyards. A+Architecture and Hellin Sebbag Pirany architectes delivered So Wood in Montpellier (France) in 2024. 105 homes, 5 SOHOs, offices and shops.Surface area: 10,300 sq. metres (net floor area). Budget: €18m.





An emblematic urban development project in the Montpellier metropolitan area, the Port Marianne district stems from an ambitious vision to extend the city towards the sea. To the west, on the banks of the Lez, the Port Marianne ZAC, developed by A+Architecture, marked the first step in this significant urban project.

To the east, on the banks of the Lironde, the République ZAC designed by Nicolas Michelin represents the culmination, both physically and temporally, of this city extension towards the Mediterranean. It will extend beyond its boundaries by organizing the southern entrance of Montpellier and creating a new urban facade that is clearly visible from major national and international transportation infrastructures (A709, A9, and the high speed rail line).

Due to its location along Avenue Raymond Dugrand, a major public space that connects the four operational sectors of the Port Marianne district, Lot E2 enjoys a unique position.


It forms one of the twelve «neighborhood units» of the ZAC, innovatively accommodating a diverse mix of uses: active ground floors, offices, housing, workshops, and shared facilities. Figure of the dense and sustainable city, this lot supports contemporary architecture adapted to the Mediterranean climate and local living style.

The creation of an internal topography for each neighborhood unit, based on integrated (non-underground) parking, allows the formation of terraced inner courtyards oriented to the south with views of the «grand landscape.» The architects from both agencies have effortlessly embraced the concept of the République ZAC, whose humanistic approach immediately captivated them.

The Project

So Wood is a mixed-use development comprising 105 housing units, 5 SOHO (Small Office Home Office) units, offices and shops, and 103 parking spaces, forming a unified architectural ensemble with each of the two architectural firms subtly marking their work.

With a shared project owner (Icade / REI Habitat / Kalelithos), a common wood-frame construction principle, and a unified facade cladding – specifically, a metal siding in differentiated colors – along with shutters in either louvered or roller formats, the project achieves coherence through its diversity. The communal parking, topped with a substantial layer of soil, is now a wild garden and shared gardens.

So Wood offers an architectural journey from the public space to the heart of the private courtyard, treated as a true «suspended park,» around which the entire development gently descends southward to open up to the sun. Equipped with spacious terraces, the majority of the housing units enjoy a dual orientation towards the city and the suspended garden, with views over the park.


This layout creates an unexpected intimate atmosphere in the heart of the courtyard, where vegetation provides essential coolness in a Mediterranean city center. The architectural design expresses a very urban verticality on the streets and a legitimate intimacy in the courtyard by breaking down volumes with well-identified buildings on a human scale, where everyone can recognize their home.


The diversity of the types of inhabited roofs (terrace roofs, sloped roofs, etc.) and housing – collective, intermediate, or individual – creates atypical apartments, giving their inhabitants a sense of individualization conducive to personal appropriation. Many of these units are cross-ventilated, and all have large private outdoor spaces. Thus, new ways of living are born.




Certified as Silver Level Occitanie Sustainable Building and bio-sourced building, the project had to embody the environmental and innovative challenges of this rapidly growing district. The choice of a comprehensive virtuous approach, exemplary energy performance, reduction of the carbon footprint, and the use of durable materials and construction systems naturally imposed themselves.

In harmony with the omnipresence of greenery, wood is incorporated into every part of the project. It is expressed through a mixed structure, perfectly combining wood-framed walls, wooden beams, bio-sourced insulation, and concrete floors, suitable for a G+9 elevation and meeting acoustic and thermal inertia requirements.

This intersection of landscape and built environment, this nature that spreads and resonates throughout the project’s architecture, extends to the roofs, whose slopes echo treehouses.

The heart of the courtyard actively contributes to the protection and enhancement of biodiversity. In continuity with public spaces, this private area offers significant space for urban nature while providing a high-quality living environment for users and residents.

For the facades, due to their significant heights, the choice was made for metal cladding, with materials and colors selected jointly by the two architectural firms, bringing a strong and unified identity to the entire lot.

Functioning / Circulation

The 105 housing units, many of which are accessed via walkways, are distributed across six buildings and six stairwells. Each lobby is directly accessible from both the public space and the central courtyard. Residents have the freedom to choose their paths. The sloping roofs are also inhabited (attics or loft spaces). The ground-floor apartments all have private gardens enclosed by planted beds and/or embankments that shield them from the communal area. The ground floors and first floors (G+1) house commercial spaces with mezzanines, totaling 7 meters in height. The offices on the first and second floors (G+1 and G+2) create an intermediate level between the commercial spaces and the residential units, ensuring a seamless transition between these distinct volumes. A covered passage serves as the pedestrian entrance to the heart of the complex, accessible to the public during the day.


Landowner: SERM
Project owner: Icade / Kalelithos / REI Habitat
Project Management:

• A+Architecture: Lot E2A (buildings A-B-C-D)
• Hellin Sebbag Pirany Architects: Lot E2B (buildings E and F)

Economist: L’Echo
Structural Engineer: TERRELL
Mechanical and Thermal Engineer: Celsius Environnement
Environmental Engineer: Novacert
Acoustic Engineer: Gamba
Infrastructure Engineer: Tecta
Construction Management / Scheduling and Coordination: Arteba
Mission: Complete project management and scheduling and coordination (OPC)


Contract Award Notification: November 2020
Start of Construction: September 2021
Delivery: April 2024
Location: Montpellier, République ZAC, Lot E
Construction Budget: €18 million (excluding VAT)

Net floor area): 10,300 m²
Gross Office Area : 657 m²
Gross Retail Area : 857 m²
Living Area : 8,092 m²

Real estate complex of 6 buildings from ground floor to G+9 comprising:
• 105 housing units (including 16 affordable and 9 PSLA)
• 5 SOHOs
• 1 office floor
• 4 retail spaces
• 103 parking spaces
Certifications and Labels:
• BDO Silver Level
• NF Habitat HQE 6*
• Level 2 bio-sourced building
• E2C2
+Wood-frame facades, wooden structures, and concrete/wood construction

• 2022 Silver Pyramid in the "Low-Carbon Buildings" category
• 2022 Real Estate Grand Prize in the "Constructive Innovation & Low-Carbon Building" category

Copyrights :
Photos © Camille Gharbi
Drone Photos © Drone-Ops
Plans and construction photos: © A+Architecture and Hellin Sebbag Pirany architectes



We are architects, town planners, landscape architects, engineers, designers, economists, project  managers, perspective and film producers, and we are passionate about what we do. More than a hundred of us today, we've been combining our knowledge and experience for over  thirty years. Our histories and geographies come together, and we design projects all over France  and sometimes beyond, from Montpellier, Toulouse, Nîmes and Paris. Over the years, through experience and encounters, we have been able to take on a wide range of  programmes and design on all scales. Urban planning, landscape, housing, health, hotels, the  service sector, sport, culture, education and industry are all areas with which we are familiar, and  each of which is enriched by the experience of the others. Our latest projects include the wooden Port-Marianne secondary school in Montpellier, the Hôtel  La Prison in Béziers and the MRTT military air station in Istres. And a host of other projects,  including the Halle des Sports in Nîmes, the Campus Galène in Bordeaux, the renovation of the  Stade Armand-Cesari in Corsica, the Pôle Santé Plaine-du-Var in Nice, the Halle des Mobilités in  Toulouse - in association with Danish architect BIG - and a university residence for the Crous in  Grenoble



Hellin Sebbag Pirany architectes   

Hellin Sebbag Pirany architectes is a human-scale structure with a wide range of expertise, based in Paris and Montpellier for over 20 years. It designs and builds a wide range of new-build and renovation projects for public and private clients, including multi-family housing, complex public facilities and commercial buildings. We take great care to ensure the quality of our work, and for each building our team carries out in depth studies beforehand, to ensure rigorous, meticulous implementation and the controlled use of innovative materials. Our many projects in the Mediterranean climate have led us to pay close attention to environmental quality, in order to solve the difficult equation of summer comfort combined with energy savings. The agency's highly versatile architects are experts in complex programmes such as secondary schools on occupied sites, security buildings, mixed-use residences, etc. They invest themselves personally in each project, to understand the customer's requirements, establish a genuine dialogue and offer them a truly tailor-made project. Following the delivery of the lycée in Gignac, 2/3 of whose structure is made of wood, Icade Promotion called on us to put this experience to good use in the So Wood project


Release © Fatima Erhalac, FE Consulting Paris, France






Kulturexpress  ISSN 1862-1996


july 4, 2024