School architecture requires the creation of specific spaces which are for both living in and teaching in. At the heart of the Landes pine forest (South West France), Saint Geours Middle School is a reasonably-sized, scalable establishment, where movement is fluid and views across the landscape are favoured.
Facing the forest, the plan stretches from east to west and places the two functional centres on both sides of a vast covered courtyard, which synchronises the whole composition. More than just an unoccupied space on the plan, the entrance-courtyard forms the heart of the school and is identified by a wooden canopy: the poles, with their umbrella structures, the different ways they are set up and their height variations, mark the space with an aerial graphic design and the Landes forest, appearing in the interstices, becomes a readable metaphor. The playground is therefore a protected and luminous space which, beyond its functions of passage and shelter, anchors the project within its territory. It leads to the administrative block and group work spaces, and to the west opens onto an interior street where classrooms are distributed across two levels. The impression of a dilated space without scale that this horizontal axis could give is averted by the use of dynamic lines: the architectural details (flights of stairs, window panes, walkways, roofing) are controlled by the work on the oblique, of rhythm and of interstices. As such, this re-establishes the sense of space, extending the analogy with the forest and therefore constructing a more intimate atmosphere. This mimetic relationship between the building and the site is felt at all times, whether we are walking inside or outside the building. Thus, the tight and asymmetrical spans of the facades which are prefabricated in Landes pines reflect the irregular sequence of the tree trunks. To the south, the façade widens to integrate an aluminium brise-soleil system which lets in the sunlight in winter. No room, be it north or south facing, is subjected to direct sunlight. The glass inserts and the continuous line of roof sheds allow for optimal diffusion of sunlight in the interior spaces and tie the architectural ensemble together like a fabric filling the gaps. The efficient control of the heat and energy supplies insures that the building is comfortable to use throughout the year: this (uncertified) high-quality environmental approach sustainably limits the impact of the building on the environment. Saint Geours de Maremne Middle School therefore responds to the necessity of bringing the state school towards the context of its own settlement, to favour the feeling of an enclosed yet breathable space. The impression is one of an architectural ensemble whose elements are both woven together and contrasted, as an extension of the surrounding forest: it finally instils the feeling of belonging to the land.