Le Monolithe: Collaborative Mixed-Use Eco Complex by MVRDV

Welcome to the future of the urban ‘superblock’: massive mixed-use projects designed sustainably with community in mind. Le Monolithe, recently completed in Lyon, France where the Rhône and Saône rivers meet,  features energy-saving aluminum shutters that make a social statement about the European Constitution when closed.

Renowned design firm MVRDV won the opportunity to design the project in 2004 and brought on four additional French and Dutch architects – Pierre Gautier, Manuelle Gautrand, ECDM and Erik van Egeraat. Each architect designed a section of the building according to MVRDV’s master plan. Part of a large-scale urban regeneration project, Le Monolithe features social housing, rental property, a residence for disabled people, offices and retail.

The design pays tribute to local architecture and traditions in two ways: through its layout, which calls to mind the French classical Grand Gallerie with its large interior courtyard, marina, park and raised public area overlooking the city, and also through the use of aluminum shutters to keep out the sun on the building’s south face. But in this case, the shutters include a little something extra.

MVRDV wanted to integrate a “reminder of the values, ideals and needs of the European Union” after France and the Netherlands voted against the European Constitution in 2005, so the firm printed the first article of the constitution on the facade which reads, “The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, liberty, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail.”

Meeting High Environmental Quality (HQE) criteria, Le Monolithe gets 80% of its power from renewable sources. All rooms in the building benefit from daylighting and natural ventilation. Reinforced insulation, heat storage, low-e double glazed glass and a compact design add to the building’s sustainable qualities.