Ernest Hareux schools group, Grenoble

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Apart from being a pedagogical tool, the school embodies the ‘third instructor’: one that contributes to the education of children alongside the teacher and the group. It forms a living space which, like a miniature city, must accommodate courtyards and squares, internal streets punctuated with surprises and meeting places.
The Ernest Hareux primary school is destined to play an even more important role: marking the centre of an emerging neighbourhood. How do you turn an educational amenity for small children into the heart of a neighbourhood under construction at the entrance to the city of Grenoble? How can a primary school generate meaning in the city?


    The school plot is a very steep piece of land located below a major road leading into the city of Grenoble.
    In the nursery school, the youngest children experience a world scaled to their needs. It is a single storey space around a courtyard sheltered from the cold prevailing northerly winds that blow down the Isère Valley. By filling in the slope created by the embankment, the nursery school becomes the plinth of the facility. Its roof divides into a courtyard for the primary school, but also into a square that is home to intergenerational activities, marking the heart of the neighbourhood.
    The primary school forms a totem that signals the western entry to the school. Library, access checks and administration occupy a single storey, level with the roof of the nursery/school courtyard. The classrooms are distributed around the second storey, while the service accommodation forms a third storey that rounds off the playful silhouette of the school.
    In order to limit the younger children’s movements, the canteen and main hall are on the lower ground floor. The spaces are versatile in their functions: a patio with a ramp takes the elementary children to the canteen, while the double-height hall provides direct access to their school; an outdoor ramp takes them to their classrooms from the lower ground floor, while an autonomous hall, connected to the main hall to facilitate monitoring, is located under the overhang created by the elementary classrooms on the boulevard.

    To draw on local skills, the building is made of timber. The frame moulds the facades and interiors. Its design seeks to strike the balance between economy of materials, comfortable temperature and light levels, and the tactile quality of the fittings. The variations are subtle: plain glass inside for the facades with sun exposure in order to take advantage of the masking effect of the frame, combined with external blinds in the South. The frame is topped with timber panels when it protects activity rooms. Only the floors are made of prefabricated concrete to reduce noise and maintain stable temperatures.

    The world of children dominates, imbuing the building with life: drawings on the walls, games in the courtyards, laughter and nursery rhymes.


    Ville de Grenoble

    ZAC Presqu’Île, Grenoble (38)

    € 5,55 M ex-Tax

    3 168 sqm SDP
    3 258 sqm outdoor


    Architect: COSA
    COSA team: Géraud Pin-Barras, Floriane Bataillard, Antonin Bohl, Pierre Louvet, Christophe Maignien, Audrey Musto, Oana Rupacici
    Landscape architect: Bertrand Paulet
    Structural engineering: Batiserf
    Fluids engineering: CTH ingénierie
    Acoustics: Jean-Paul Lamoureux
    Economics: BMF

    Basic studies + partial execution studies + signage + furniture+ BIM management

    Competition 2014, winning project, no follow-up

    Construction of a timber structured school with 5 nursery classes, 9 elementary classes, a leisure centre and canteen
    BIM Level 2 project

    HEQ initiative – all target cleared
    Rain-water recovering
    Dry construction work, with locally processed wood frame