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BUILDING PROJECTS


MAS DE ROCHET HOUSING CASTELNAU-LE-NEZ, FRANCE


Whole earth approach


A new district has been created near Montpellier that brings together 400 homes of different tenures, in a holistic design that helps buildings blend into a former quarry site. Jack Wooler reports


he new Mas de Rochet district in Castelnau-le-Lez, just outside Montpellier in the south of France, is 4.7 hectares and consists of 413 new homes, including apartments providing private, social and luxury housing. Situated on the site of an old sand


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quarry, bordered by low but steep cliffs dug from the compacted sand, the buildings’ facades and geometry have been designed to replicate the distinctive materiality of their surroundings.


Urban developer GGL commissioned A+Architecture to conduct an ‘urban study’ on the site, and subsequently to design the whole scheme. After dividing the land into four lots, each was then sold to a separate developer – namely Amétis, Idéom, Nexity and Helenis.


A+Architecture has substantial experience in both private and public housing, as well as in urban planning programmes of comparable size to Mas de Rochet. They, along with two other architecture practices, took part in a design competition for the project.


Carved into the ground


The existing groundwork was not modified from its former iteration – the architects in fact exploited the outline of the old quarry to use it as the frame for the development, and give the impression the buildings were “carved into the ground itself.”


ADF SEPTEMBER 2018


Built around a single path as a cul-de-sac, vehicular access is kept to a minimum as necessary, while 218 car parking spaces provide plenty of provisions for storage. The development features a range of different housing typologies. 33 per cent of the homes (126 units) were dedicated as social housing, and provided by Amétis, plus a further 109 homes as senior long term care units, developed by Nexity. In addition, 14 per cent were allocated to Idéom, as 52 first-time buyer market homes, and 25 per cent as 97 high-end homes from Helenis. As well as the new homes, the development includes the provision of a community centre, a district heating centre, and shops. There are two social housing apartment blocks, one of which borders the road and also houses the retail units and the municipal centre which occupy its ground floor. Both buildings have what the architects describe as a “classic distribution scheme of halls and corridors.” The heat production centre provides district heating to the homes, utilising an economical biomass woodchip-based district heat network.


Planned in grouped duplexes, the 52 homes for first-time buyers all have at least a small garden, with some of the homes offering an additional entrance terrace. 50 parking spaces are located in a basement underneath the homes, intended to provide


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