The Biotope offers an office environment uniquely entwined with the natural environment for the municipal offices of Lille. The design transforms the typical office program into a unique, circular environment that supports people, animals, and local nature alike. Located on a bustling, yet constrained site without the possibility of an extensive ground level park, our design has instead made greenspace an integrated, vertical experience.
Conceived as a ripple made of glass, light, and vegetation, the Biotope leans on these three core elements to deliver a workplace where abundant daylight, fresh air, and nature contribute to the wellbeing of municipal employees. Originally conceived as Lille’s bid for the European Medicines Agency, the Biotope has had from inception a unique focus on promoting health and wellness. Now as the new home for the municipal offices of the Métropole Européenne de Lille, the building continues this original intention. Completed during the city’s reign as World Design Capital, Biotope showcases ambitious civic architecture in a timely remake of the office typology.
The Biotope is located on the eastern edge of central Lille, a northern French city closely connected with Belgium, Netherlands, and the UK. In fact, the major rail and roadways leading in and out of Lille directly abut the site. Nestled between the Grand Palais convention center and the Regional Council for the Hauts-de-France region, the Biotope is a prominent addition to this bustling corridor. The site links up with a ring of parks and gardens that runs around the city. Greenery travels up and around the Biotope as a natural extension of this Green Ring.
Despite the turn toward remote work, there is no replacement for in-person collaboration, whether it’s on the rooftop garden or in the spacious atrium. The circular floor plan eliminates the anonymous dead-end corridors engrained into the traditional office typology. Instead, employees circulate through a winding trail of skybridges, balconies, and rooftop gardens. As you move up the building, terraced gardens and balconies offer different vantage points for municipal employees to look out onto the Lille cityscape. Large glass facades link office spaces seamlessly with these outdoor amenities lining the exterior perimeter. In addition to workspaces and meeting rooms, the building offers a 300-seat auditorium dedicated to conferences and a panoramic restaurant.
The Biotope creates a biodiverse ecosystem in the midst of the city. The 5.500 m2 of self-sufficient green roof is home to 65 plant species and contributes to the filtration of C02 and the reduction of urban noise. Ending up on one of the open-air balconies lining the interior perimeter or a roof garden is inevitable by design. Every floor has access to outdoor space, creating an equal and democratic distribution of nature across the office.
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 it? Micro wet-zones, nesting boxes, local dead wood, and a brown roof provide fertile ground for birds and insects. The landscaping strategy creates passive gardens that flourish without human intervention. Instead, plants collect rainwater, while birds and wind naturally transport seeds.
Our design recognizes that beautiful buildings must also be socially and environmentally sustainable. The Biotope achieves this as the recipient of BREEAM Excellent, WELL Gold, E+C-, Biodiversity, and Wiredscore certificates. The double skin façade, still relatively uncommon in France, regulates the indoor climate and reduces reliance on climate control systems. Micro wet-zones, nesting boxes, local dead wood, and a brown roof with organic material provide fertile ground for birds and insects, promoting local biodiversity. While employees and visitors have ample opportunity to interact with nature throughout the day, the top technical floor is covered by an inaccessible green roof dedicated to biodiversity, and biodiversity alone.
Architecture offices involved in the design: KeurK Architecture
Project location: Lille, France
Design year: May 2017 – May 2018
Year Built: May 2018 – December 2019
Photo credit: Javier Callejas Sevilla