Toulouse-based GGR Architectes has completed a primary school with a timber structure in Pibrac, a small town in the Haute-Garonne region of southwestern France. The project is located in a developing urban area on the western edge of the commune. It is situated alongside an existing cycling path and among detached homes, small apartment buildings, a gymnasium, nursery school, public spaces and protected woodlands.
The school is organized in a horseshoe shape to create a central sheltered playground fitted with a playing field and shady areas planted with trees. The southern and eastern legs of the building are a single story in height, preserving views from nearby housing. It grows to two stories where it faces the nursery school to the north; here it also connects to a cafeteria building that also serves the adjacent nursery school. An existing retaining wall forms the western boundary to the site where the land slopes upwards.
The central leg of the project is characterized by brick walls integrated with aluminum doors and powder-coated panels. A generous canopy with a timber structure is recessed within the building and extends into the entrance hall. When its doors are open the interior and exterior can function as a single covered space that enables the school to host events of various scales. The entry hall is also the main meeting and circulation point for children, parents and staff, and is connected to the linear interior corridors that provide access to all of the school’s internal spaces.
The two-story northern wing is also constructed in timber and its exposed wood elements create an organizational grid that lends the project a strong and ordered visual texture. Inside it houses a wide corridor that gives onto the courtyard with large windows. The corridor is punctuated with colorful alcoves.
The classrooms, studios and other places for learning are naturally lit with a band of windows within the roof. The classrooms benefit from regulated natural ventilation in the summer, while in the winter the corridors act as a buffer space. The high ceilings allow for thermal stratification and hot air is evacuated by means of the skylights. The tiled and insulated roof is lined with a ventilated air space that aids in temperature reduction. The exterior cavity walls consist of a layer of external insulation, an air space, and a brick lining, also designed for thermal comfort.