Text description provided by the architects. The nursery is located in the town of Épinay-sous-Sénart (near Paris) on the edge of a typical 1970s estate made up of 5-storey linear buildings and ‘small’ 12-storey tower blocks naturally characterized by tall, massive and rectangular features. These somewhat homogeneous buildings delimit the communal landscaped open spaces that appear overwhelmed by rendered concrete masonry. Recently refurbished, the estate projects a relatively calm image despite its rough social reality.
The land features a clump of tall pine-trees, an extensive grassy area that slopes gently down to the Yerres river and a view of the distant countryside beyond the opposite bank of the river. The project consists of 5 entities, all linked to childhood but each one distinct and requiring its own configuration and access.
Comparative study of both site and project generated a proposal that was in direct contrast to its immediate environment. The project actually developed into a group of small units at right angles to the main access road and alternating with strips of vegetation.
Each unit has a paneled roof whose slope differs according to the activities underneath. The height to ridge beam and therefore the resulting available internal space are linked to the room’s importance.
Outside, each project entity has its counterpart in its adjoining garden.
Unit One = infants department and shared facilities
The activity room extends into a sheltered patio designed to provide awareness of different textures and gently shaped with children
in mind. This garden includes the beginning of the existing pine grove. An outside covered area provides for activities when it is raining.
Family Care is arranged around its main area, Reception and Activities, which also extends into an outside garden.
Unit Three = day nursery
This is located at the end of the facility and looks out towards the distant landscape beyond the opposite bank of the Yerres river. The nursery’s three sections have similar layouts: a south-facing activity room opening onto an outside play area and lit by colored light wells; nap rooms opening onto the play area and enjoying soft natural light; a baby changing room in the corner overlooking all the other areas; storage/cloakrooms directly accessible by parents from the walkways.
A wide walkway at right angles to the three units provides access to the various activities and gardens. This corridor allows movement from areas open to the public to the most private parts reserved just for the children.
The use of wood is highlighted internally by Fibraroc-type wood fiber chipboard panels to ensure excellent acoustic performance. They follow the roof slopes and thus contribute to the rooms’ chalet- style warm atmosphere.
The heights of the two lateral masonry walls that constitute the units’ gable ends vary according to the space immediately behind and give a crenelated silhouette. They provide external protection for the play areas and contribute to this feeling of inner tranquility that is at the very heart of the project.