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The futuristic French

| September 5, 2013 | 0 Comments

In our series on the most innovative schools in the world as chosen by online magazine, we bring you The Josephine Baker School ( JBS) in the French city of La Courneuve, just outside the capital, Paris. Completed recently by Dominique Coulon & Associés architects, the eclectic school (named for the flamboyant jazz singer) stands on what was a housing estate and, more anciently, a Gallo-Roman necropolis. JBS has been the subject of international architectural debate because of its focus on aesthetics and philosophical concepts. As the architects say, “It is capable of opening up inside itself, creating a different landscape, an unusual place, a utopia.”

Coulon is well-known for his emphasis on twisting shapes, and designed the school on a trapezoid-shaped plot of land. The primary school and nursery school were erected between two poles, linked by a system of ramps. All students meet in the merged playground and in the shared canteen. The sports areas have been placed on the roof of one of the blocks, as has a shared library. Of his philosophical approach to the school’s design, Coulon says: “The school building gives the impression of an enclosed shape with few openings notwithstanding the sliding volumes, the folds and asymmetry. Many notches fracture the facades, a symbolism where an infinite universe opens up inside the strictly defined area reserved for the children.”

Coulon has said that the corridors in this school were particularly important for the architects, and function more as “walkways from one space to another. The corridors appear to change shape and expand in front of the classroom doors and receive abundant natural light from the zenith, as if the better to define themselves as areas for decompression before taking a deep breath and plunging into the work areas.” Colour choice was also crucial during construction for Coulon. “The ‘play’ of compression and expansion provide for an organic atmosphere within a bold concrete structure, which is further highlighted by the usage of the orange colour. It covers the floors and sporadically spills over onto the walls and ceilings, rendering the slightest ray of sunshine incandescent and lighting up the roof area.”

Coulon has also asserted that he paid attention to the relationship between the child’s physique and the space, rejecting the idea that “it’s just another school which has been designed as an area for adults that happens to include children”. “The use of natural products and the attention paid even to the smallest details contribute to making the building an almost luxurious place, a place hailed enthusiastically at its inauguration by a population of parents and pupils who are eager to look determinedly to the future.”

Category: Spring 2013

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