When is a win not a win? When the winner gets disqualified, which is what happened to Nicolas Mouret, the designer of ‘Phyte’, a 380 m mobile tower designated first by the jury of the Eiffel Architecture Competition, but immediately after disqualified. The reason? Mouret is not a student of architecture, but of design. Gus Eiffel, who was an engineer and not an architect, must have flipped over in his grave. But even he couldn’t change the rules of the competition that carries his name. As for Nicolas Mouret, who is passionately involved in architecture, design and photography  he ‘knew that he had overstepped’. So no outcry, no bitterness, just the  pleasure of having been the real winner, however short-lived (1).


A touch of nature in the city ‘Mobile but stable, the tower dances with the winds. It brings swaying lines to a static city frozen in verticals and horizontals, curves that remind us of ocean swells, moving trees and rippling meadow grasses. Phyte springs up like a stalk from an invisible base at the end of the Champs  de Mars. It is anchored in a sunken space, sacred and impenetrable, surrounded by turf that slopes down to its centre. People can lie down there and take in the contrast between peaceful Eiffel and playful Phyte’.


The project is entirely feasible: its eight mono-bloc structural members 50 metres high are articulated by gimbals and guys that ensure stability while allowing rotating movement. They are fibre concrete tubes filled by ultra strong fibrecrete and carry spoke- beams with triangulated extremities, stiffened and tied by cables.


The mechanical energy of the rocking tower generates electricity sufficient for its lighting. It thus becomes epiphytic, lighting up to the rhythm of its movements and creating a spectacle similar to that observed in certain planktons, glow-worms or fish.


(1) Check out the video of the prize-giving ceremony on 31 March 2009, when Nicolas Mouret ‘came out’ before an audience of 600 to 900 people:

For the competition site:


Nicolas Mouret, designer, was born in 1985 at Suresnes (France). For several years he spent a lot of his free time at Fort de France airport, up in the air and on the tarmac servicing aircraft. He ended up taking a PPL theory certificate, and aeronautical construction techniques are fundamental to his basic training. From there he went on to discover and study design, and claims that ‘one of the main stages in my experience was the few months I spent with Mathieu Lehanneur.’ Since 2006, he has been working on a photographic technique that enables disappearance then reappearance of the subject in silver-base prints. He sees each print as  ‘the result of psychical analysis’.
Fascinated by physics, he is involved in rethinking the fabrication processes and systems that surround us, working from the intuition that function naturally gives rise to form. He is also developing several other projects including a mechanism for wrist watches based on his research in astronomy, and a manufacturing process using flexible compensated shells instead of moulds, destined in its first phase to produce seating.

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