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In Montpellier, a Residential Tower Inspired by a Tree

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“You can see many different balconies of your neighbors when standing outside,” Mr. Fujimoto said “This recreates the feelings of neighborhood and relationship, but at the same time there are proper distances to allow for personal space.”

CreditDavid Vintiner

Residents can choose to connect or maintain privacy. This is not possible in a normal high-rise,” Mr. Fujimoto said. “At the very beginning we were not intending these things; we realized we are touching on fundamental values.”

Opened in May, L’Arbre Blanc is fully occupied. The majority of its residents are local.

“The commercial launch was first done in Montpellier,” said Cyrill Meynadier, founder of Opalia, the project’s founding real estate developer among four associate promoters.

They had apprehensions about sales, “given that the project’s architectural extravagance was far from the usual standards of real estate housing development,” Mr. Meynadier said, but he added, “It was an immediate success.”

With the budget for the building coming in at $22.5 million before taxes, the average price per square meter of living space was $5,700, or roughly $530 per square foot. (The balconies were not counted as living space.) Half the units are owner-occupied. Thirty percent of the buyers are investors renting to young couples from the region, while 20 percent are second homeowners who, Mr. Meynadier said, “understood the artistic dimension of this architectural masterpiece.”

“On the riverside there is shadow in the morning, in the afternoon the light changes,” Mr. Fujimoto said. “The building looks different from different perspectives and at different times of day.”

“Every time I design, I am thinking about this,” he added. “How to create a diverse experience for people. A building that changes moment by moment. If it does that, people don’t get bored.”

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