It makes sense to conserve the 1930s part of the Eugène Varin school complex, not only because of its intrinsic qualities but also its strong identity makes it a landmark in a neighbourhood that is changing fast. The town’s politicians have chosen to preserve this school architecture so typical of the interwar years because it symbolises the French republic’s ideal of high-quality education for all.
Starting from this basic analysis, we approached the task with an attitude of respectfulness towards the existing building and a plan to extend it by means of a contemporary holistic composition that integrated the historic part of the school complex and adopted its conventions. Our philosophy for this project refused to set off heritage against modernity and took the form of simple, sometimes abstract spaces coexisting harmoniously with what already existed.
The style of the new buildings combines elegance and durability in the same way as those that have been conserved. It is contemporary, using a single material – enamelled terracotta – and a range of shapes that are induced by the interplay of the rooflines. These give the building an unmistakable silhouette in the future neighbourhood to mark out the school complex and stamp its presence on its surroundings for good.
The outdoor layout has been designed so as to conserve as many of the existing trees as possible and to make the children’s activity spaces private without cutting them off from the town. Each playground is adjoined by an educational garden and the dining halls open out on to this. These gardens based around the existing trees provide a visual filter towards the road and a landscape for children to enjoy.