In Paris’ 19th arrondissement, a nursery and primary school combine a serene, translucent exterior with an unusually animated interior.
Located on the banks of Canal Saint Denis, the project offered architects Brenac and Gonzalez the opportunity to capitalize on what they call the ‘poetry’ of the site, creating an imaginative space in harmony with the high energy levels of children aged three to 11 inside.
A pierced façade (actually glass printed with a pattern of circles) envelopes the building, evoking both an Arabic screen and canal barge windows. It simultaneously allows children to enjoy waterfront views, while drawing the constantly changing reflections of light and water inside.
Colour continues the lively effect, from the vibrant apple-green entrance hall to the subdued, but still positive, tones of the classrooms. A staircase enclosed in a curious structure sweeps through the three levels of the school, resembling the vertebrae of a dinosaur-like creature that shrinks the huge atrium space to a scale less intimidating for the building’s small inhabitants.
Photos courtesy Sergio Grazia and Stefan Tuchila.