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Author(s): Atelier Belenfant&Daubas, architectes

Obvious event!

It is obvious! A metal warehouse that hides an “underbelly” of raw earth walls is obviously strange! Such an appearance alongside the old school could only be shared and understood if the project came collectively from the minds of all the stakeholders, brought together to imagine their school of the future. For nearly one year, children, parents of students, and teachers, as well as a bus driver, child minder, and cooks worked with architects, landscape designers, HVAC engineers, and elected officials from the village. Everyone stated their interests and experiences to weave this ladder-proof pullover, while the design emerged out of a combination of ideas. This emulation came out of a dynamic practice of participatory democracy[1]. The essence of the project is the sharing of common values that the architects collected and shaped.

The power of the land, rural by origin, pulled sometimes by the Nantes metropolitan area, guided the entire process. The land showed its ability to mobilise its stakeholders and to bring out the unique resources intrinsic to this place.

Above all, human resources, heritage, and raw materials: everything was explored. An experimental approach was followed, guided by the search for optimisation. Like hand-made embroidery, the new buildings incorporate all the intelligence produced during the participatory workshops. What could be better than a school built by environmental builders in training: a school where learning to learn becomes child’s play! The site’s soil as a raw material for all interior walls is the common thread: the construction of an igloo for the children was an invention that came out of a veritable process of creation in motion, from dialogue to construction.

Walls of local wood walls insulate the classrooms. The diversion of the agricultural silo, a common element in the rural landscape, bears the standard for the school. Placed at the entrance to the site, it stores bits of wood, from pruning the municipal trees, which serve as fuel for the wood-fired boiler. The courtyards are carpeted with wood shavings in which strawberries, raspberries, and other plants grow to be used in the school cafeteria. The site was also reconnected with its environment by welcoming the village’s sheep around the school, as veritable spectators of the childlike energy on daily display.

Therefore, the project was not limited to the construction of a school, or to an eloquent architectural design; through its expanded action process, a citizen synergy was created around it that is not about to stop. By relying on available resources, it mobilised the land and those who live on it.

Through an architectural project, a designer was aware that he is but a link acting and interacting with a lot by participating in the “re-creation” of a veritable ecosystem.

[1]        By implementing the integrated design process (P.C.I.©wigwam).

Function : School group