You have elected the town hall, the Triangle and the White Tree the ugliest buildings in the city

Buildings that do not leave people from Montpellier indifferent – 20 Minutes

  • In the landscape, we only see these buildings. Massive, too high, not harmonious, failure, etc. are the adjectives which come back to evoke these constructions which in the end have become emblems of our cities. The Eiffel Tower is one of the most obvious examples.
  • 20 Minutes is interested in these buildings which do not leave indifferent, which clash, even that some qualify as “ugly”.
  • In Montpellier, the Triangle, but also, more surprisingly, the new town hall and the White Tree are the buildings that have aroused the most rejection among our readers.
  • We asked Gilles Cusy, professor at the Montpellier school of architecture, to decipher the complaints of the inhabitants with regard to these buildings.

Montpellier (Hérault) is full of wonders. The Peyrou, the opera or the Place de la Comédie are the delight of tourists, and shine, on Instagram. But other buildings sting the eyes a bit. 20 Minutes appealed to residents to find out which buildings they consider to be the ugliest in the city.

The Triangle, and, more surprisingly, the White Tree and the town hall are the three that crystallize the most complaints. We asked Gilles Cusy, professor at the school of architecture, to decipher the rejections that the inhabitants feel for these buildings.

The new town hall

The Montpellier town hall, inaugurated in 2011, is the building for which readers feel the least affection in the capital of Hérault. Designed by architects Jean Nouvel and François Fontès, the building overlooks the Lez. “Massive”, “too dark”, a building “without any soul”, they complain. “It seems it’s blue,” wonders Chantal, who instead sees a black building. “We are in the land of the sun! She exclaims. Emmanuelle agrees: it’s a “big black thing!” “.

Montpellier town hall – N. Bonzom / Maxele Presse

Julia even sees it as “a futuristic prison” and compares it to the Dark Star, the space station built by Darth Vader, in Star Wars. They are many to compare the town hall to the disastrous project of the Sith lord. “A bunker, with sad colors, unrelated to the Mediterranean, adds Didier. It could be the seat of secret services, of a military administration. Nothing welcoming… A shame for a town hall! “It looks like a funeral monument, it’s cold and too imposing,” regrets another reader. The building inspires another only an “empire of bureaucracy”.

It is also its integration into the environment that is highlighted. “Its architecture is too sharp” with the landscape, notes Marine. Thierry even sees it as a “stain in the green setting where it is”. A “wart”, deplores Francis. A “nightmarish vision which pollutes the bucolic setting of the banks of the Lez”, loose Jeff.

“Jean Nouvel’s architecture has always been a little brutalist, it is a strong architecture, which imposes itself on the landscape,” explains Gilles Cusy, professor of architecture. It is often very difficult to understand an architecture in its time, it sometimes takes a certain time to assimilate it. The town hall undoubtedly suffers from this relationship: it is a modern, abrupt, powerful achievement. In cities, we need unique projects like this. It must, no doubt, be given time for it to be appreciated. “

The triangle

Built in the 1970s on the square where the little train from Palavas-les-Flots stopped, it is one of the tallest towers in Montpellier. Placed between the Place de la Comédie and the Polygone, the Triangle, which looks like a giant staircase, houses a hotel, the Sauramps bookstore, but also a shopping arcade, in the basement, somewhat deserted in recent years. And, according to contributors, the building has aged badly.

It is “completely faded”, regrets Axel. A “wart” in the city center of Montpellier, deplores Ghis. It “completely disfigures the profile of the city,” notes Suzanne. And it is “very concrete”, confides Laurence. It is “very 1970s”, Néri point, which specifies that the building is visible for miles around. “A good renovation, light, a few green facades and a square worthy of the name will make this building the lighthouse of Montpellier”, he nevertheless assures.

The Triangle in Montpellier
The Triangle in Montpellier – N. Bonzom / Maxele Presse

Annie, she thinks that the Triangle, “inhuman and without heat”, has had its day, and that it must be destroyed. The more so as the tower denotes, she says, with “the harmonious silhouette of the Saint-Loup peak, which stands out at the bottom”. It “overshadows the magnificent Haussmann buildings behind it”, adds Frédéric. Its colors “are not bright, for a city in the South”, regrets Michel.

For Gilles Cusy, the architecture of the Triangle, like that of its almost equally rejected neighbor, the old town hall, is somewhat “dated”. Especially for these glass walls, terribly “energy-consuming”, especially on the shores of the Mediterranean. “Forty years later, these architectures are no longer adapted to our time,” continues the professor. They bear witness to a time when we didn’t give a damn about consuming a lot, when we were not very attentive to the realities of the climate. “

The White Tree

Surprisingly, the White Tree, opened in 2019, is one of the buildings that most resent the inhabitants of Montpellier. This 17-storey building, the last “Montpellier Madness” before the end of the competition, has nevertheless won awards many times around the world for its beauty, but also for its architectural prowess. But these balconies, suspended in the air, do not appeal to everyone. It is “not very aesthetic”, regrets Valentin. “It looks like a clothes horse,” jokes Martine.

For Matthieu, who is not convinced by the building, the White Tree is the symbol of “the architectural drift of Montpellier, and of the Port-Marianne district, with its eclectic buildings, with cheap design, which are sure to appear obsolete in a few decades and appear bad taste in the years 2000 and 2010. “

The White Tree in Montpellier
The White Tree in Montpellier – N. Bonzom / Maxele Presse

“It is a building that is a bit the opposite of my convictions of Mediterranean architecture, which is based on shadows, on more material, which makes courtyards or patios,” notes the professor of the Montpellier school of architecture, Gilles Cusy. The White Tree is the reverse. But that’s not why it’s not interesting: these large terraces, which extend, like diving boards, on the Lez, were worth doing, a bit like an innovative experiment. “

And, here again, the environment in which the building fits, imagined by the Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto, does not really work in its favor. “It happens, of course, like a hair on the soup, continues Gilles Cusy. But that is one of the unfortunate conditions of contemporary architecture: we no longer think of the city as a system, in which architectures respond to each other. We think of architecture as objects that come to rest in the middle of anything. “

The White Tree has indeed risen from the ground, at the edge of a roundabout, in a district marked by an architecture inherited from the 1980s, which has not changed much since. “The Antigone district is uniform, in beige tones, with games of symmetry, and the White Tree is established next to that, regrets Rachel. Its architecture has nothing to do with it: modern, white, without symmetry, very messy, no ornaments… ”The building“ totally denotes ”, adds Anne. It “breaks the landscape”, continues Christophe. For Thomas, the White Tree is even “too innovative” in this aging neighborhood. William also wonders if the building “will still be white in a few years”.

Asked by 20 Minutes, Nicolas Laisné, one of the architects of the White Tree, finds “rather flattering that this building does not leave the inhabitants of Montpellier indifferent”. “It is normal for some to have trouble accepting a disruptive architecture,” says Nicolas Laisné. It will take time to settle in the urban landscape, and in the hearts of residents. In the history of France, architectural innovations did not immediately achieve consensus: we can think of the Eiffel Tower or the Pompidou Center, each decried for so long. For me, the main thing is to build buildings in which to live, where nature has its place. This is what I wanted to do with the White Tree, and I can tell you that those who live there are very happy about it. “

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