Playing it Pink: Dominique Coulon & Associés Restores Saint-Jean School in France

Dominique Coulon & Associés, led by founding architect Dominique Coulon creatively renovate a highly rational 1960s building for Strasbourg's Saint Jean School; working to break up the monotony and repetitiveness architectural elements. The result? An interior rearranged as fluid, welcoming spaces with rounded, playful, dynamic shapes.

The curved shapes of the ground floor space contrasts with the regularity of the classrooms and lend emphasis to special moments in the days such as going to the library and letting off steam in the playroom. These spatiotemporal landmarks enable the child to appreciate the rhythm of daily routine. A number of scientific studies back up this theory, the architects drew up a plan in collaboration with the neuroscientist Professor Claude Bonnet. Working on the space in this way helps not only to clarify routes but also to work towards achieving energy performance targets.

The existing building was on three identical levels, with one central corridor serving classrooms on either side. The space occupied by the nursery school is on the first floor, while the second and third floors are devoted to the elementary school. The architects broke up the traffic areas by bringing in light in different ways, providing visual landmarks and a considerable degree of comfort.

Large horizontal cracks prompted Coulon to completely cover the original facades. The architects reconsidered the heights of the windowsills and aligned them with the tables in the different sections. To deal with the current problem of overheating, vertical slats have been fitted on the outside to provide protection from sunlight falling obliquely. Each classroom is fitted with roller blinds and double-flow ventilation, achieving an energy figure lower than that requested.

The playgrounds have been redesigned following the same logic as for the halls. The planting system, the acoustic treatment of the walls, and the different materials all help to break up the monotonous, of the existing playground.

Each space takes on a strong identity to create the landmarks that are essential in such an imposing building. Coulon added a touch of gentleness and poetry so that both pupils and staff will be able to thrive in a calm environment. These spaces constitute an innovative educational tool.

Photography by David Romero-Uzeda