Grenoble, France’s new mixed-use building has the skin of a python

A Prada bag inspired the design.

January 04, 2019 |
Grenoble, France's new mixed-use python building

All photos courtesy Renaud Chaignet

A new 47-unit mixed-use building in Grenoble, France had a strict set of features specified by the client, leaving little room for design experimentation by the architect. The recessed top floor was to be flanked by two duplexes, a platform at the bottom would contain retail space and be fitted with large glazed shop windows, and large balconies and openings on the façade would allow natural light deep into the building’s interior.

With so many major design elements set in stone, the project’s architect, Maison Édouard François, began to worry the 48,000-sf building was becoming too “predictable.” What was the cure for this predictability, you ask? Snakeskin-inspired cladding, obviously.


Close up of the python-inspired cladding


The scaly idea was planted in one of the designers’ minds while looking at a handbag in a Prada boutique. It was determined the graphic skin of the python would blur the project and add a level of chicness the area sorely needed. The handbag was scanned, digitized, and “mapped” onto the building form, causing the windows and overhanging balconies to disappear into the reptilian patterns.


See Also: Goettsch Partners’ and Lead8’s mixed-use complex begins construction in Changchun, China


The façade was created from diamond-shaped “scales,” each one identically reproduced in cut metal. The scales were then oxidized to create the three different colors and assembled to create the design of the skin. Because the cladding was so expensive, it was only applied to the façades that required some type of screen. The result is a mixed-use building that rises like a coiled python overlooking the City of Grenoble.


Python building retail space and lower apartments

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