Jean Lurcat High School
Architecture in Nature: a series of separate but linked blocks in a park which are unified by buffer areas open onto planted patios and by an undulating folded metal roof.
Jean Lurçat Collège in Saint Denis is at the junction of two basic fabrics: one landscape and one cityscape. An area of scattered low-rise detached housing which is unstructured but constitutes the neighbourhood’s identity and presents a friendly human scale on Rue Diderot and Rue d’Alembert. The Parc des Sports which opens onto the La Courneuve landscaped park and provides the school with an open perspective and a strong link with green spaces and gardens of the city. The school is both in the middle of nature surrounded by greenery and very near to the low-rise housing around it.
The challenge with this building is that it must be integrated into the site without masking the park landscape, while linking the domestic, maternal scale of houses by giving the neighborhood through views and visual bearings which will make the school a major feature in the urban composition.Our analysis of these requirements led us to design the school as a series of separate but linked blocks or wings in a park. The configuration of the scheme in separate blocks identifies each of the teaching buildings while creating visual bearings and several different viewpoints from inside the school, and it also gives Rue Diderot a sensitive through view of the school, integrated into an enhanced landscape of greenery.
These blocks, oriented north-south for maximum sunshine, are arranged delicately on the site, following a curve that reflects the footprint of the park. They are unified by buffer areas open onto planted patios that allow transparency of the view onto the sports park and by an undulating folded metal roof that protects the patios from risks of overheating in summer and creates a microclimate in the terraced gardens. In the architectural treatment of the metal roof pans, this roof adapts the same concept and aesthetic as the blocks by introducing variations and a rhythm in the folds of the roof elements to create coloured modulations of different light on the facades for each block.
The specificity of the blocks is asserted all the more by variations in the expression and tone of the external wall finish which create a lively modulating range of appearance on Rue Diderot. The wall finish is corrugated stainless steel cladding, polished to varying degrees, assembled in horizontal or vertical elements, and with a copper-coloured finish for the general teaching blocks. All the blocks have corner windows and triple orientation provided by lateral openings onto the terraced gardens.
The scheme’s overall form is composed of a North-South curved frontal line, interrupted by terraced gardens, oriented towards the entrance garden and the courtyard. On two upper floor levels above the ground floor, it contains the teaching blocks, the residential pupils’ accommodation, the library, the multi-purpose hall and all areas related to teaching.
This line is extended to the North by a sharply-shaped single-storey building containing facilities for catering and vocational training, which open onto the courtyard and the kitchen served by the delivery area.
Further to the North and very close to the sports park is staff housing accommodation organised on four upper floor levels from the first upper floor, which has double north and south orientation and an outstanding view of the park.
The overall composition is punctuated by the gymnasium and the sports accommodation on the ground floor on the east of the site.