This Parisian Hotel Is a 'Living Building' With a Glorious Green Facade

This could be the happy medium we have been looking for.

Villa M in Paris

Michael Denancé

Montparnasse in the south of Paris has a new mixed-use project designed by French-Brazilian firm Triptyque Architecture: Villa M. It includes a hotel, coworking space, and a "dynamic healthcare-focused center." It is also very dramatically covered in plants.

“We designed Villa M as a naturalist architectural manifesto: that is, a building of a new era, where man is no longer opposed to nature and the living," said Olivier Raffaëlli and Guillaume Sibaud, the Triptyque Architecture designers of Villa M, in a statement.

Straight on view of Villa M

Michael Denancé

The firm noted in the press release how the building was designed as an exoskeleton: "Its architecture stands out with its living building, whose geometry is formed by metallic structure beams, conceived to house medicinal herbal plants, fruit trees, and medium to large-sized perennial species. Designed as an exoskeleton, the building has a minimalist, light look, composed by prefabricated pieces as in a building game."

According to Raffaelli, the plants are slated to be the main feature. “The edifice itself is the support for this vertical garden, which will grow and occupy the entire façade, turning the building into a vertical, medicinal forest, and becoming the main architecture."

This is in many ways the latest stage of the evolution of putting green stuff on buildings, much of which can be seen in Paris. What's unique about Villa M is that it appears to be a blend between living walls and green facades, which are notably different from each other.

Living walls are where plants are grown in a felt or another vertical growing medium that is built right into the wall. The most famous example is Patrick Blanc's Le Mur Végétal on the Quai Branly Jacques Chirac Museum in Paris, which was completed in 2004.

Living Walls Can Reduce Heat Loss in Buildings

A 2021 study, "Living wall systems for improved thermal performance of existing buildings," by researchers at the University of Plymouth found that adding a living wall to existing buildings can significantly reduce heat loss by 31.4%. Read more here.

Lloyd Alter in front of Living Wall in Paris
Patrick Blanc's Le Mur Végétal in Paris is an example of a living wall.

Kelly Rossiter

Green facades are where vegetation is in a horizontal medium, the ground, or in pots or planters. The most notable is Stefano Boeri's Bosco Verticale—or vertical forest—in Milan.

A Green Facade: Bosco Vegetale
Stefano Boeri's Bosco Vertical in Milan is an example of a green facade.

Boeri Studio

I have thought living walls are too maintenance- and energy-intensive, and green facades, with their big trees in concrete planters cantilevered out, are too carbon-intensive.

Villa M
Villa M.

Michael Denancé

Villa M appears to be a very happy medium, with a straightforward system of planters built almost as a separate structure in front of the building. The planting seems to be proportionate to the size of the container.

Structural detail

Triptyque Architecture

The details show how the planters sit outside the building itself, with insulation wrapping the slab edge and no thermal bridging as happens on a cantilevered balcony. It's an elegant solution. On their website, the architects wrote, "Composed of a minimal, airy and light structure, Villa M is the support of a vertical garden. This structure functions as a giant wire mesh echoing the Parisian architecture developed in the early 19th century."

“We have explored all of the available surfaces to potentialize the greenery and to avoid energy and carbon waste," explained Sibaud. Environmental responsibility is also present in the basic and organic material choices, proposing a low-tech architecture.

window interior view

Michael Denancé

From the inside, the views are framed by the plants.

"Villa M’s design is intended for the architecture to bring nature back to the city, with the main goal to provide citizens with a new urbane experience with the advent of a 'nature-city.'"

View from inside
Villa M window inside view.

Yann Monel

The project started before the pandemic and it is not quite clear what the health care aspects of the project are. But the press release notes:

"The health crisis has intensified, and accelerated healthcare challenges already known and geographic and urbanistic issues have started to figure as health issues as well. On the other hand, healthcare has exceeded the hospital walls, spreading around the city and creating a more open relationship between citizens and health professionals. Designed before the Covid-19 pandemic, Villa M’s groundbreaking program catalyzes the idea of opening healthcare to the city, and the city to healthcare."

This aligns with the idea of the 15-minute city, where resources are spread around and not concentrated all in one part of the city.

Rooftop restaurant

Triptyque Architecture

There is also the Philippe Starck-designed hotel and a gorgeous rooftop. The release stated that "a suspended oasis is composed of fruit trees and plants, with large wooden armchairs, Canadian gardeners, wicker lamps, and garlands guinguettes installed." I am not sure why they need Canadian gardeners.

Top view looking toward Eiffel Tower

Triptyque Architecture

From what seems in retrospect to be two extremes, between Blanc and Boeri, Triptyque Architecture is demonstrating what appears to be a happy compromise. “Villa M is a model to imagine the city of the future. It is the new Parisian edifice," said Sibaud.

Closeup of vertical planting

Yann Monel

View Article Sources
  1. "Villa M Takes Amazon to Paris with Tropical Building." Triptyque Architecture + Philippe Starck, 3 May 2022.