By Robert Such. Published in The New York Times.
A new apartment building in Montpellier, in the south of France, is designed to sprout vegetation from its walls. ”I want to see buildings that speak about landscape, sensation and feelings,” said Edouard Francois, the architect. When he proposed his design for Chateau Le Lez in 1998, he had to overcome objections from authorities who worried that the experimental building would need extra maintenance. The building’s exterior walls are crushed volcanic rock that will sustain cacti and figs. Half of the apartments are rentals (from $330 to $1,100), half owner-occupied. Many have open-topped wood cabins on stilts from which to contemplate the nearby river Lez. One-bedroom apartments sold for about $55,000, three bedrooms for about $250,000, all before completion last year.