MONTPELLIER – An archive, library and sports department inhabit Zaha Hadid Architects' design in southern France, which exploits chamfered contours and deep concrete volumes.

Montpellier's Herault regional government commissioned the 35,000-sq-m program, which materializes as one form externally but exhibits three distinct branches internally. The building is like ‘a large tree-trunk that has been laid horizontally,’ Hadid says. Supporting the form of a tree quite literally on the outside, branching glass strips are recessed within the primary concrete structure.

The archive is positioned on the ground floor, forming the ‘trunk’ of the form. The multimedia library and sports departments occupy the far end of the building, showing more porous characteristics as a distinguishing tool. Separate vertical circulation cores have been placed in each institution so that the differing departments can function individually.

Public spaces reside at the front of the building to offer a clear zoning strategy, as well as a link between the different departments through a linear lobby. Displayed on the facade through green-tinted glass, the public artery is placed on the first floor.

The main shared space within the building sits in the centre, including an auditorium and meeting rooms to encourage public interactions. A massive cantilevering canopy cuts through glazing in the centre of the building, defining both the entrance and main public space.

Photos courtesy of Helene Binet