A city district transformed into a green, accessible focal point
Located in the heart of the city, Orléans College is intended to be a symbol of the city, a model of urban redevelopment, a connecting link between people and nature, and architecture that promotes quality living in its neighborhood. Designed by archi5, this middle school near the Loire River comprises student and staff accommodation, a gym, a multipurpose room, large open spaces with a range of functions, and the actual teaching spaces themselves. Completed in spring 2021, the structure integrates naturally into its urban setting, becoming a new point of reference for the redevelopment of the whole neighborhood.
The project, commissioned by the Loiret District, occupies over two acres (9000 m2) along Avenue des Droits de l’Homme, a major arterial road leading to Orléans’ old center. The complex is part of a larger urban development project underway in the city aimed at creating a new residential hub that’s both resident and environment friendly. The new middle school has therefore already become an integral part of the urban landscape and a central feature of this ever-changing place.
The construction of the new school made it necessary to also provide an adjoining public space that is both safe and accessible. The result of extensive analysis and a thorough understanding of the site, archi5’s project was a dynamic and complete response to the need to transform the area. The main building borders the road for the entire length of the lot, defining the school area itself without the need for fences. In a corner subtracted from the volume of the building, a large entrance area creates a physical and visual connection between the school’s internal courtyard and the square outside. But one of the main characteristics of the larger building – and a reflection of the complex as a whole – is the use of two architectural languages, each expressed in relation to the other and the interior.
These architectural languages underscore the public and private roles of the building. On its street frontage, the façade is simple, linear, and finished in concrete bricks in light colors punctuated by openings that allow light into the interior. The connecting element between inside and out, the entrance is formed by large modules with timber sunscreens and large windows to the sides that open onto the reception area.
In contrast to its monolithic street façade, the interior face of the concrete-framed main building is softened by decorative larch cladding. The internal courtyard, the heart of the school, is a multifunctional space in which architectural elements are integrated with the park. An athletics track, basketball courts, a gym, parking, and housing are organized concentrically outwards from the play areas in the heart of the courtyard to the green areas of the private buildings along the edge.
An energy efficient building envelope, orientation, and a bioclimatic study were all major elements of the project. Rainwater management and reuse combined with a green roof make the project a practical example of applying green strategies to architecture. The studio paid a great deal of attention to studying the landscape and using local plants that require little care.
As well as having a green roof, the main school building is a modular concrete structure that offers great flexibility both in subdividing the internal spaces and in terms of future extensions to the building. The other sculpture-like volumes are characterized by timber structures and differently pitched zinc roofs. The façades of the homes have timber cladding, while the gym has a concrete façade with wood paneling along its upper section alternating with large windows.
The new structure is a key element in generating the synergy needed for the redevelopment of this part of the city. The project created by archi5 aims to underscore the role of the school, starting with the use of architectural languages aimed at defining the relationship of the building itself with its surroundings.
Location: Orléans, France
Architects and BIM Management: archi5
Client: Loiret district
Surface: 6.540 m2 (middle school) and 2.742 m2 (gymnasium and multipurpose hall)
Structure, networks, economist, environmental design, fluids, electricity, acoustic design, BIM management: Facéa
Kitchen engineer: Cabinet Claude Mathieu Associés
Photography by Sergio Grazia, courtesy of archi5