Originally conceived as Lille’s bid for the European Medicines Agency, the Biotope is an office building with a focus on promoting health and wellness. Now as the new home for the municipal offices of the Métropole Européenne de Lille, the building continues the original intention by creating a work environment uniquely entwined with the natural environment. Conceived as a ripple made of glass, light, and vegetation, these three core elements form the building blocks of the design, where abundant daylight, ventilation, and nature contribute to the wellbeing of the municipal workers of the city of Lille.
The Biotope is located on the eastern edge of central Lille, a northern French city closely connected with Belgium, Netherlands, and the UK. Nestled between the Grand Palais convention center and the Regional Council for the Hauts-de-France region, it is a prominent addition to this bustling corridor. In the absence of space for a sperate ground level park — the building is constrained by a sprawling highway on one side and a busy road on the other— we have made the footprint of the building and the park one and the same. Greenery travels up and around the Biotope as a natural extension of the city’s Green Ring running through the site.
Large glass facades link interior office spaces seamlessly with the numerous outdoor spaces populating the building’s exterior. The design for the Biotope is guided by the belief that nature is not only important for productive and healthy employees, but also important in itself. In addition to the six terraced gardens crowning the building, the top technical floor is covered by a biodiverse garden inaccessible to workers. Here, local plant and wildlife can flourish without any human intervention. Our design recognizes that beautiful buildings must also be socially and environmentally sustainable, which the Biotope achieves as the recipient of BREEAM Excellent, WELL Gold, E+C-, Biodiversity, and Wiredscore certificates. Like everything else in the Biotope, the angled glass panels are both beautiful and functional; the double skin facade regulates the interior temperature, reducing carbon emissions from heating the building.
The Biotope creates a biodiverse ecosystem in the midst of the city. Derived from the Greek expression for “Place of Life”, the expansive network of terraced gardens, balconies, and bridges are the breeding grounds for over 65 species of plants. The Biotope creates a habitat for local plant and wildlife complete with nesting boxes, collected rainwater, and fertile substrates. Thanks to the birds and the wind that will both transport and seed the substratum, there’s no need for human intervention for plant life to flourish. Rather than conceiving of nature as a separate amenity to escape the office environment, the design for Biotope reverses the equation: how can our work and social spheres be integrated with and support nature?
From a human perspective, the landscaping provides a comfortable microclimate to take a moment of respite filled with diverse sights and scents. The building’s green layer creates a reduction of urban noise and brings temperatures in the shade between 2 and 8°C lower than those in the city. Equally important, however, is its contribution to more sustainable city, as the plants naturally sequester CO2.
The serpentine floor plan follows a roughly figure-eight path, a stark departure from the traditional corridor-style office building. Instead, employees circulate through a winding trail of skybridges, balconies, and rooftop gardens. Ending up on one of the open-air balconies lining the interior perimeter or a rooftop garden is inevitable by design. Every floor has access to outdoor space, creating an equal and democratic distribution of nature across the office. Employees seated on any balcony are surrounded by the transparent interior facade, creating an open view of the municipality at work and reflecting the circular office environment. As you move up the building, terraced gardens and balconies offer different vantage points for municipal employees to look out onto the Lille cityscape. Most importantly, every greenspace has an unobstructed entry point, meaning that they are easily accessible to anyone in the building.
Drawing on Scandinavian design tradition, we develop vibrant, sustainable architecture that extends beyond itself and provides lasting value to the users and local context. We were founded in 1959 by Danish architect Henning Larsen, whose name we are proud to carry today. Our architectural approach is based on curiosity and artistic audacity, resting on a solid foundation of knowledge-based design and attention to detail. We design our projects as generous gestures, reaching out to their audience and allowing them to experience the unexpected.
Our projects are born out of a non-hierarchical work environment and strong local presence. We are based in Copenhagen, with local offices in New York, Munich, Hong Kong, Riyadh, Oslo, and the Faroe Islands.