Day Nursery and Residence Pierre Budin | The Plan
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Day Nursery and Residence Pierre Budin

ECDM Emmanuel Combarel Dominique Marrec

The urban context is the northern fringes of Paris, an unlovely jumble of disparate buildings, a tide line marking the end of the 19th century city and the beginning of poor quality spill over. Like so many similar areas in Europe, the quarter has grown by add-ons without any underlying urban plan. Faced with this unregulated cityscape, the strategy of Emmanuel Combarel Dominique Marrec architectes (ECDM) has been to establish new rules with a day nursery whose simple linear programme, although small, gives a sense of order and quality to a chaotic fabric. Not being able to integrate with or match the size of the surrounding buildings - namely, a 12 storey high-rise built in waiver of land-use parameters - ECDM’s project chose to stand in total contrast to its surrounds: not just in terms of height compared to the ungainly apartment block next door, but especially for the attention to detail, its rapport with context, and thought for the future users of the place. Key to the programme is the relationship between interior and exterior of the building, and consequently its young inhabitants. The building is as closed and impenetrable from the outside as it is porous and transparent on the inside. The outer façade of pre-fabricated undulated white concrete slabs seems to have a dual role. Monolithic and impermeable, it stands as an impregnable island within its urban context. At the same time, however, it is a piece of urban sculpture, a pure ethereal volume you wouldn’t expect to find in such a quarter. The only relief in the solid elevations is a series of small windows, required by regulations but designed at the level of the young children within. Inside, invisible to the rest of the city, and in total contrast to the façades, are two open, luminous storeys where classrooms and play areas open out onto a double-height patio whose levels are connected by a ramp. Along with the day nursery, the architects’ brief included a residential volume. Although remaining...

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