R2K Architects’ competition-winning design for Groupe Scolaire Pasteur, an educational institute in the small town of Limeil-Brevannes just outside Paris, comprises five schools — three preschools and two elementary — all huddled in one brightly coloured complex. The Grenoble-based designers had seen the project as an opportunity to simultaneously redefine the town’s future layout, while also spotlighting sustainability issues.
«We wanted to create a separate identity for every one of the five schools, along with a sense of community,» say the architects. The 9,500sq m campus is positioned in close proximity to the town hall, a public library, shops and several new apartment blocks. Students enjoy classes in a modem zero-carbon edifice overlooking landscaped courtyards and playgrounds. Now one of the largest structures of its kind in France, Groupe Scolaire Pasteur accommodates over 1.000 pupils, and is made almost entirely out of wood.
According to Veronique Klimine, a partner at R2K, the town’s leaders played a key role in developing this energy-efficient building. The preference for the use of wood was expressed when the competition was announced,» she says. A total of 3,000 cubic metres of wood [mainly pine and spruce) make up the entire three-storey structure. The facade and roof terrace are dad in weatherproof larch and thermally treated beech wood for protection against rain and other elements. The architects have also used glazing extensively, throughout the construction. Huge floor-to-ceiling windows and glass walls allow plenty of natural light into all areas, including the 50 classrooms, canteen and library.
The landmark feature of the school is a tall rectangular tower that sports frescoes of a mermaid and an octopus by Finnish artist Lauri Ahlgren These vibrant images reappear as murals in the school’s hallways. Another distinctive feature is the school’s facade, which is superimposed with a multi-coloured louvred screen. «Our goal was for every school to be its own empire,'» Klimine explains. And this is certainly evident from the bold hues selected for the classroom and corridor walls within each school.
Since the institute’s opening last year, the feedback from students, staff and the public has been overwhelmingly positive. For the town-council client, this institute is a vindication of its desire to create a ‘green’ and fun learning environment for an unusually large number of students.