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School’s unique facade and colourful interior deliver a children’s universe

by Madelein
School’s unique facade and colourful interior deliver a children’s universe

The Antoine de Ruffi School’s building occupies a strategic spot between the entrance to the new Mediterranean district in Marseille and its “inhabited park”, coordinated by the urbanist Yves Lion. As the new French school wanted a unique, light and sculpted facade, they turned to the architectural expertise of two French companies, Tautem Architecture and Bmc2 Architectes, for its design.

The team noted that the challenge of designing a school for children aged three to eleven is to ensure that they find the learning environment both welcoming and protective. This meant that the ergonomics, comfort and acute attention to details, such as considering the height of children, guided the overall design.

Colourful personality

Housing 22 classroom and communal areas, this mineral-monolithic building features strict geometry and spectacular volumes.

The building’s light-coloured concrete facades are sculpted working with the material’s thickness to form a colonnade on the port side and a grand staircase on the city side, creating an interplay of light and shadow. In contrast to the building’s envelope, the use of bright colours and timber for its interiors skilfully uplifts its personality to bring the much-needed warmth and playfulness.

The school’s location offers a view over the developing suburban landscape, with scattered warehouses, silos, soap factories, large-scale housing estates from the seventies and, in the distance, the Massif de l’Etoile. The reverse view towards the west brings the port and its huge ships, the towers by Zaha Hadid and Jean Nouvel, as well as the continuous sweep of the highway viaduct into full view.

Illumination interplay

The architects have deliberately limited the number of architectural and technical components to guarantee simplicity and longevity, and to ensure easy maintenance. Built with low-carbon, light-coloured concrete, reminiscent of pearl white and the beige of the coquina sand, the building was poured in place and without joints. The painstaking work of the “skin” has produced beautiful alternating parts of sand-coloured concrete with smooth, mat and shiny surfaces, creating an interplay of light and shadow.

The facades play a protective role; with a thickness of 100cm, they are the result of a “double wall”, a process of simultaneous pouring of two veils of concrete between which a rigid form of insulation is inserted, combining the two mineral facades’ thermal performance and vastness.

The deep portholes were created to provide the interior with useful voids for installing storage, workstations and water systems.

Joyful use of colour

To create surprise and contrast with the minerality of the facades, the building’s Mediterranean style creates interiors that evoke feelings of joy, thanks to the creative use of colour. The timber used throughout the building is bio-sourced larch from the Alps which the architects used with restraint to deliver unique walls, glad in warm larch panelling. Circulation between the classrooms as well as built-in furnishings is cleverly created with glazing.

The softness of the building’s curves and the warmth from the timbre create a children’s universe, which is warm, inviting and joyful – the ideal learning environment.

Our sincere thanks and appreciation to World Architecture News for the use of the information contained in this article.

Images: © Luc Boegly

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