Simone de Beauvoir School | Creating a new paradigm

The Simone de Beauvoir School has a closed appearance at the rear on the public space side, and is largely glazed on the courtyard side

The Simone de Beauvoir School, by local firms Bond Society and Daudré-Vignier & Associés, signifies a new model for a clean-air learning environment in the suburbs of Paris with a focus on spatial quality and timber design.

In order to embed the new primary school into its residential neighbourhood context, the architects consulted with the City of Drancy to come up with an  L-shaped, exposed timber structure that is connected to the adjacent kindergarten. It encompasses a reception hall, 10 classrooms, communal leisure spaces, and a school restaurant, all within two wooden quadrilaterals placed on a limestone plinth. 

There was an intentional focus from the architects on “spatial quality, functionality, and sustainable demand”, which is particularly evident in the attention placed on the routes and views between the architectural volume and the lighting sources. On first glance, the school appears as a solid structure that conforms to the typical school building stereotype, however on closer inspection the façade reveals its exposed slatted wooden form that lets light filter in and creates interesting shadow play. 

“Interior transparencies escape the feeling of confinement, and two double-height patios draw natural light and spatiality into the circulation patterns,” explain the architects. “Far from being simple passages, these spaces are punctuated with custom-made fixed furnishings that integrate storage and benches. The scale of the building, the flexibility of the interior layouts, and the choice of colours make it easier for children to navigate.” 

A scaled-back building and flexible layouts have been designed to make it easier for children to navigate

Tying the building to its enveloping wooded landscape, the locally sourced timber used for the construction not only creates interesting nuances and defines the different learning spaces, but it also is both both biologically renewable and efficient to install. 

The school’s largely glazed ground floor and courtyard forms what the architects define as a “centre of life”, a place where education, social life, and interactions, “extend the space beyond its simple teaching function”. The west-facing classrooms enjoy the benefits of the warm natural light through the full-length windows, whilst overlooking the exuberant playground below. 

So, a precedent has been set for the future with an inspirational example of a wooden school design that encourages sustainable practices, stimulates young minds, and reduces material costs. 

Project details:

Location: 64, rue Jacqueline Quatremaire à Drancy (93) France

Client: Drancy City Town Hall

Floor area: 2,100 m²

Structure: Wood locally sourced from French fields; the stone used in construction was acquired from the Vassens quarries in the Aisne, less than 100km from the project

Architects: Daudré-Vignier & Associés + Bond Society

General contractor: ZUB

Photography: Charly Broyez

Project sourced from v2com

Concrete construction is limited to the ground floor, the infrastructure, the stairwells, and the elevator

Discover more exemplary timber-built projects amongst this year’s Wood Awards 2021 winners.

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