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Name   The Ladders of the City
Architects   BOFILL, RICARDO
Date   1989
Address   Montpellier, France
Floor Plan   10000 SQ.M.

This six-storey commercial building serves a crucial purpose in the urban design of Antigone, namely to relate the new development to the city centre by spanning a steep slope. A shopping centre had for a long time marked the boundary of the city with a blind wall, which thanks to this project became opened.

The element that characterises the building is a monumental double staircase that leads up to the terrace, on the same level as Place de la Com├ędie. The central door provides access to the lifts and escalators while constituting the main entrance to the two-storey shopping mall. The entrances to the offices are located at the right angles of the plaza and open onto a large lobby; vertical circulation cores connect all five levels in a clear way.

The U-shaped building oriented toward the east, opens out to the Place du Nombre d’Or. It defines a large paved rectangular plaza, which marks the starting point of Antigone’s grand axis. Reserved to the pedestrians, this intermediate space between the mall and the neighborhood of Antigone encourages social activities.

The central part of the building next to the department store is designed as a ziggurat, in a sense, an urban balcony over the new part of the city. Along the stairs and horizontal promenades, in the second and fourth floors, additional offices are located for local government use, shops and workshops for artists.

The building design follows an essentially horizontal composition. Three superimposed orders (two floors each), separated by greenery, allow for a harmonious reading of the entire building. These orders are further broken down along stairs into a series of arches over the ramps, a colonnade over the horizontal promenades, and a superimposition of arches and columns in the fourth and fifth floors. The reinforced concrete used on the facades takes the color of the regional stone.

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