The Arboretum represents "a new stage in the ecological transition"

Arboretum rendering
© Nicolas Laisné Architects

Nicolas Laisné's vast project is a very different kind of office development.

Mass timber construction is relatively new, with Cross-Laminated Timber barely 30 years old and with the big breakout with Waugh Thistleton's Murray Grove tower just ten years ago. But judging by the crowd and the work presented at the Woodrise conference in Quebec City, we have finally reached Critical Mass Timber.

Nicolas LaisnéNicolas Laisné/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0
One of the most remarkable projects shown was Nicolas Laisné's Arboretum project along the Seine River on a former paper-making factory site, in a straight line beyond La Défense. Nicolas Laisné, working with Dimitri Roussel and François Leclercq, has designed a vast project – 126,000 m2 (1.356 million SF) set in 9 hectares (22.3 acres) of former industrial wasteland that's now being turned into the biggest wood building complex in the world.

Arboretum tower© Nicolas Laisné Architects

The materials, the construction method, and the use and development of the buildings have all been designed with the aim of reducing greenhouse gas emissions throughout the life of the campus and maximising its resilience. Use of bio-sourced materials, bioclimatic design and generation of renewable (photovoltaic and geothermal) energy make this site a true model of sustainable development, thus marking a new stage in the ecological transition.

Office interior© NicolasLaisné-DimitriRoussel-FrancoisLeclercq-WEISSIMAGES

It is a project that demonstrates the changes in the way we work, and the kinds of offices that people want.

Given the way that the world of work is changing, the campus has now been established as a leading model for innovation and creativity. Users’ new expectations are radically changing the way in which management and workspaces are envisaged.

office interior© NicolasLaisné-DimitriRoussel-FrancoisLeclercq-WEISSIMAGES

There is more than just workspace here, but some serious biophilia.

The Arboretum is designed to offer individuals a sense of well-being (a comfortable acoustic and visual environment) as well as direct contact with nature. In sensory terms, first and foremost due to the physicality of the solid wood, and the unobstructed views provided by the tall bay windows.

And assuming the soil is not too toxic after centuries of paper making, lunch will be nice, very local and seasonal.

Arboretum garden© Nicolas Laisné Architects

A large vegetable garden and orchard produce nearly 25 tonnes of fruit and vegetables per year. The produce, grown organically with no pesticides, will be used by the on-site restaurants. The compost will be produced locally using organic waste from kitchens on-site. Rainwater will be collected and used for watering.

Exterior view© NicolasLaisné-DimitriRoussel-FrancoisLeclercq-WEISSIMAGES

Developers are building with wood everywhere these days; tenants are willing to pay more for the warmth of the material, for the sense that they are not sitting in a conventional office building. They can be healthier, and studies have found that people are often happier. This project is such a change from the huge office towers of La Défense, a different world.

The Arboretum represents "a new stage in the ecological transition"
Nicolas Laisné's vast project is a very different kind of office development.

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