TOURRETTE-LEVENS – Perched in the sloped terrain of a small village in the French Alps is a new day care centre based on an idea of childhood that emphasizes safety, comfort and protection. ‘The programme proposed the establishment of a stretched building with three levels and schoolyards open to the surroundings,’ French studio Heams + Michel explains. ‘This typology didn't correspond to our idea of childhood. Our intention was to provide protective and protected areas for the comfort and safety of children but also for the tranquillity of the parents.’

In order to transmit these principles in the architecture of the nursery, Nicolas Heams and Benjamin Michel designed a compact parallelepiped with three interior patios. While two of these colourful patios serve as outdoor space for children, the third is a light well that spans the building’s two floors, bringing natural light to the ground floor.

Tourrette-Levens’s new child care centre takes advantage of the terrain’s shape and anchors itself to its location by distributing the different elements of the programme – a three unit day care with a kitchen and communal facilities – across two levels. Moreover, the roof’s greenery helps the building become an extension of the surrounding landscape. According to the architects, ‘noticeably from the road above [the roof] assumes its role as the fifth façade.’

Throughout the design, colour works together with space distribution and the connections to the exterior to create a harmonious atmosphere for parents and children alike. As the architects explain, ‘colour is a structural element of the project, it is not there to entertain.’ For instance, the change of colours marks the change of atmosphere and room function and a different colour was attributed to each nursery unit, a ‘landmark’ which children can easily identify.

Images courtesy of Serge Demaily