International design office Carlo Ratti Associati (CRA) and Bouygues Immobilier have revealed designs for ILOW (pronounced ee-low), an experimental and sustainably minded building that aims to bridge two different socio-economic neighborhoods near Paris. Proposed for the commune of Nanterre, the project would be located between La Défense — the financial powerhouse for Paris that’s also Europe’s largest business district — and a neighborhood home to Tours Nuages (Cloud Towers), a pioneering post-war social housing project designed by architect Émile Aillaud. Designed with a parametric approach to resemble a pair of open arms, the curvaceous ILOW references the Cloud Towers’ mimetic form while introducing new energy-efficient construction.

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Named after the pun on the French word for “small island” often used in the phrase “an island of greenery,” ILOW makes social cohesion and sustainability its two main design objectives. The curvaceous building consists of two wings that frame a central green courtyard, which connects to an adjacent public park. Topped with a lush roof garden, the 134,550-square-foot mixed-use building would primarily house office spaces stacked atop a publicly accessible and transparent ground floor with a restaurant and a café. This building would serve as a physical “common ground” for the two socially separated neighborhoods.

Related: Vincent Callebaut proposes a green, food-producing footbridge for Paris

curved glass building near a skyscraper
glass building with curved building

“We are trying to use design promote social encounters — between different people, cultures and social groups,” said Carlo Ratti, founding partner of CRA and director of the Senseable City Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “This is what is unique about physical — as opposed to digital — space, something which the pandemic made us all too aware of. We can use architecture to bridge across different social worlds.”

trees behind glass wall in lobby area of building
people working at desks behind wall of windows

To minimize the building’s energy consumption, the architects have used a parametric approach to inform the arrangement and sizes of the facade’s prefabricated modules, which are engineered to follow the sun’s trajectory to ensure optimal natural light indoors and minimize energy use. CRA has filed permits for ILOW to the local municipal authority.

+ Carlo Ratti Associati

Images via Carlo Ratti Associati