‘Foam of Waves’ offers glimpse into future of high-density living

Sustainability is a key feature of the redevelopment. Picture: Vincent Callebaut Architectures

Vincent Callebaut Architectures has won a competition to redevelop the ancient thermal baths of Aix-les-Bains, France, following three public meetings between the municipal government, the building’s owners and local residents. 

Dubbed the ‘Foam of Waves’, the winning design brings together solar panels, urban agriculture and public plazas into a carbon-neutral mixed-used development that encourages social interaction at every turn.

Foam of Waves, France

The buildings’ wavelike white curves give the project its name. Picture: Vincent Callebaut Architectures

In addition to a restaurant that opens onto a panoramic terrace and a shopping mall that boasts vertical gardens, the design features numerous co-working spaces, an urban farm capable of producing 20kg of fruits and vegetable per square metre every year, and a public viewing gallery that allows guests to view the site’s ancient Roman remains through a striking glass dome – “framed by bodies of water offering mirrors to the skyline”.

According to Vincent Callebaut Architectures, these spaces are positioned in a way that maximises interaction between residents and visitors.

“The Metamorphosed National Baths will be a hymn to hospitality where housing becomes a place of conviviality and meeting in the heart of gardens suspended in the sky; where tourism ceases to be synonymous with anonymity; where the traveler meets inhabitants, companies, entrepreneurs and associations of Aix-les-Bains and Savoie,” the firm says on its website.

Foam of Waves, France

Typifying the project’s commitment to public space, a central glass dome will double as a viewing gallery for the site’s historic Roman remains. Picture: Vincent Callebaut Architectures

The verdant wavelike structure also includes 185 apartments – each of which will be surrounded by “edible sky-gardens” that can be cultivated by residents – and a wellness centre that tips its hat to the site’s past life as a playground for the European elite.

Solar panels and recycled organic waste will power the development – which will be orientated in a way that dramatically reduces its overall energy requirements – a geothermal heating system will draw from the pre-existing thermal hot spring, and rainwater will be recycled for non-sanitary uses, phyto-purification, and infiltration lagoons.

The project is scheduled for completion in 2023.

Foam of Waves, France

The mixed-use development will include 185 “sky villas”, a quarter of which have been earmarked for social housing. Picture: Vincent Callebaut Architectures