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Jean Lurcat High School Gymnasium

Mikou Studio

Jean Lurcat High School Gymnasium
By Caterina Testa -

Saint-Denis, Île de France. This part of metropolitan Paris not far from the Boulevard Périphérique to the south, lying within one of the loops of the Seine to the west and abutting onto a strip of countryside to the east seems straight out of Colin Rowe’s Collage City: motorway junctions, high-rise estates, a snippet of countryside, sports fields, factories, craft workshops, ancient military fortresses, cemeteries and swathes of neat little row houses.
Mikou Design Studio’s programme for a technical high school, equipped with canteen, accommodation for boarders, gym and staff quarters, fuses this incoherent medley: the urban landscape of small row and detached houses on the one hand, and the Georges Valbon park land on the other. The challenge of the brief was twofold: avoid putting up a barrier to the park and create a link with the human and domestic scale of the nearby residential quarter.
The urban fabric itself seems to have guided the functional design of this series of blocks separated yet linked by intermediary glazed buffer units. The modest size of each component and the deliberately different façades blend with the fragmented scale of the nearby residential quarter. Glazed volumes between each block - functionally efficient glasshouse constructions ensuring comfort zone temperatures internally - provide permeable access points to and city-side views of the park on the other side of the school.
Repetition with variation is the programme’s hallmark. The repeated blocks give uniformity while the various shapes and colours blend the building with its variegated urban landscape. The reiteration of vertical elements is another leitmotif of the whole project, from the perimeter fencing, facades and shuttering through to the roof beams. Different colours and materials, all used with varying frequency, lend interest to the sequence of blocks while giving it the uniformity of a whole.

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