la courneuve Xiao Xue - La Courneuve小学
非常感谢设计方Dominique Coulon Architecte将英文介绍和项目图片授权JoyLink 竣麟发行。

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‘Josephine Baker’ group of schools in La Courneuve, by Richard Scoffier

The ‘Josephine Baker’ group of schools recently completed by Dominique Coulon in La

Courneuve manages to fit into the difficult context of the ‘Cité des 4000’ neighbourhood, on a site

marked by the painful memory of the demolition of the ‘Ravel’ and ‘Presov’ longitudinal blocks of

flats. However, it is also capable of opening up inside itself, creating a different landscape, a

different place, a utopia.

The project is part of the very subtle town planning scheme adopted by Bernard Paurd, in an

attempt to pull together the different signs and traces that are superposed on the site like the

various writings on a palimpsest. The scheme reorganises the neighbourhood on the basis of

the right-angled intersection of two historic axes, one leading from Paris – from the Saint-Michel

fountain – to St Denis’ Cathedral, the other starting from the cathedral and heading towards St

Lucien’s church. This crossing of X and Y axes highlights the surfacing of various traces – ruins

of a Gallo-Roman necropolis stand where the scarred landscape bears witness to the demolition

of the ‘Ravel’ and ‘Presov’ blocks of flats, dynamited on 23 June 2004. As if the map had marked

the territory with a tattoo.

la courneuve Xiao Xue 2 - La Courneuve小学
The group of schools occupies a trapezoid-shaped plot of land obliterated by the non-aedificandi

area corresponding to the location of one of the two buildings that were demolished. Dominique

Coulon stays in line with the scheme and the intentions of Bernard Paurd, but seems to consider

this scar as the substratum for an act of resilience – a psychological process analysed by Boris

Cyrulnik that makes it possible to overcome traumatic situations – rather than the stigma of an

irreversible situation. He thus returns spontaneously to his work on twisting shapes, a theme that

recurs constantly in his projects. The requirement to refrain from constructing closed volumes

based on the rectangle that is a feature of the plot of land, combined with the constraints in terms

of density and height, has enabled him to question the separation of the primary and nursery

schools in the brief. His proposal therefore sketches out a unitary organisation, deployed with

virtuoso skill in the three dimensions of the space between two poles linked by a system of ramps.

Thus the nursery school classrooms are pushed to the east, on a floor cantilevered above the

entrance, and the primary school classrooms occupy areas to the west overlooking interstitial

gardens. The older children’s playground merges into the area reserved for the younger

children, which already contains the shared canteen, while the sports areas have been placed on

the roof of the other block, which contains the library shared by the two schools.

Despite its sliding volumes, folds and asymmetry, the building gives a first impression of an

enclosed shape with few openings. The primary school classrooms, superposed on the site, only

opens up to any real extent to their gardens at the side. Although on the outside the verticality is

dominant as a result of the many indentations that break up the façades, it is paradoxically the

horizontal aspect that is more evident once through the entrance. As if an infinite universe was

opening up inside a strictly defined area, welcoming a heterotopia reserved for the children. An

initiatory place where the pupils can be cut off from the adult world, so that they can adopt the

necessary distance and momentum the better to dive into it in due course.

la courneuve Xiao Xue 3 - La Courneuve小学
Particular attention seems to have been paid to passages from one space to another, to

thresholds: entering the school, taking off your coat and hanging it up before going through the

door into the classroom and sitting down in front of the teacher; laughing as you leave the

classroom, and shouting out in the playground at playtime. That is how the building works, from

the entrance onwards, in a subtle two-fold movement of advance and retreat. An arrangement

that recalls the curves and counter-curves of the façade of the St-Charles-aux-Quatre-Fontaines

church completed in 1667 by Francesco Borromini. In a protective gesture, the upper floor

projects forwards to welcome the children, while the glazed ground floor withdraws and digs in to

defuse the drama of separating the child from its parents. The corridors change shape and

expand in front of the classroom doors and receive abundant natural light from the zenith, as if

the better to define themselves as areas for decompression before taking a deep breath and

plunging into the work areas. Lastly, the canopy of the playground thrusts out well beyond the

ramp that leads up to the rooftop sport areas. This play of compression and expansion, giving an

organic feel to the concrete structure, is further accentuated by use of the colour orange. It

covers the floors and occasionally spills over onto the walls and ceilings, rendering the slightest

ray of sunshine incandescent and lighting up the roof area.

la courneuve Xiao Xue 4 - La Courneuve小学
This has the appearance of an open hand beneath the complementary blue of the sky, revealed

in all its power. All too frequently, as in Jules Ferry’s time, schools seem to be designed as areas

for adults reduced to the scale of children. The sequences of traffic paths and classrooms are

witness here to a different relationship between the child’s body and space, one that is all the

more fused together in that is it not yet totally mediatised by language. The classrooms,

corridors and playgrounds of the ‘Josephine Baker’ schools stretch out and break up around an

indefinite body, a body in perpetual transformation, a body of feelings ready to be touched by the

slightest ray of sunshine and to perceive a thousand opportunities for play in the slightest

variation in the weather.

The use of natural products – such as linoleum on the floors, and wood for the door and window

frames – and the attention paid even to the smallest details contribute to making the building an

almost luxurious place, a place hailed enthusiastically at its inauguration by a population of

parents and pupils who are keen to turn the page of the demolitions and look resolutely to the


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Group of schools (nursery + primary)




Dominique Coulon& Associés, Architectes

Dominique COULON, Olivier NICOLLAS, Architectes

Sarah Brebbia, Benjamin Rocchi, Arnaud Eloudyi, Florence Haenel, Architects assistants

BATISERF : Structural Engineer: Philippe CLEMENT, Cécile PLUMIER, Frédéric BLANC

G. Jost, Mechanical Engineer : Marc DAMANT, Annie PIKARD

E3 Economie : Cost calculation

Bruno KUBLER : Paysagiste


Lecture room, auditorium, administration

Primary school 10 classrooms

Nursery 6 classrooms

Leisure center : 6 classrooms


Office for the academy


4500 m2 SHON

6500 m2 SHOB


8 000 000 euros H.T


Eugeni PONS, Olivier NICOLLAS, Delphine GEORGE

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La Courneuve学校力求融入“Cité des 4000”社区,并在开放的内部中形成多样的景观与纷繁的空间。









与成人世界的保持了足够的距离。 学生进入学校,到教室,在操场上玩。楼上走廊的通道也是孩子们玩耍

的地方。那些异型的走廊,那些泄露下来的天光,都是前奏,高潮在 后面操场上,公共空间中所具备的张







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