- Architect In Charge:Marjan Hessamfar & Joe Vérons architectes associés
Text description provided by the architects. The Mont-de-Marsan professional & technical high school, called « Ecole Professionnelle de Métiers » is welcoming approximately 600 pupils.
The building houses 6 teaching departments:
- butchery and delicatessen
- bakery, patisserie, chocolate and ice cream.
- Beauty parlour : hairdressing, manicure, make-up.
The school, previously situated in the heart of Mont-de-Marsan, was old and fairly run down. The local Trade association, « Chambre des Métiers », therefore decided to bid for a new building project. The new school was built on a strategic site, North East of the town, in a woodland area close to sport and educational amenities and the site of a future urban development.
The 6404 sq metres building surrounded by a woodland, a protected forest (Natura 2000 label) with several hundred years old oak trees and tall pine trees. The forest on the hill side behind the school is visible from the front of the building which is split into individual blocks looking as if they are an integrated part of the landscape. This breaks up the overall 128 m profile and creates a fairly low line scaled building.
Entrance to the school is situated beneath the main block. It literally cuts through the hill and is glazed on both sides: from the fields on the front, through the entrance hall, the forest can be seen in the background. This area is full of light and visitors are often surprised about the amount of natural daylight bathing the inside of the building.
All facade walls are metal framed with wood cladding. Behind the cladding, many openings have been cut at random in the walls giving plenty of natural light inside, while exterior cladding provides comfortable shading. During the day, this creates quality atmosphere and at night, attractive light effects.
The concrete structure of beams, pillars and floors gives the whole construction a certain degree of flexibility. This was necessary to ensure each department with its own technical constraints could function properly.
The two floor project was extended an extra level. This third floor is also cladded with wood and contains the technical equipment for the various training departments ( boiler room, air handling units, etc.) As technical equipment does not take up the entire area on the third floor of each block, some rooms underneath have benefited from double height ceilings ( for example the staff room, library and admin department).
The East facade is mainly glazed allowing users enjoy the magnificent views of the protected forest at the back. It is also protected by wood cladding.
There is a need to preserve areas of outstanding natural beauty, so during construction work particular care and sensitivity were displayed to keep as many trees as possible on the actual site.
The architectural choices made resulted in creating an equipment with low impact on the environment. The re-vegetation of the hill sides was continued onto the roof on the west side. This green roof protects the building from prevailing winds and offers protection against heat in the summer. It also helps inholding rainwater.
Landscaping of the site has a continuous flowing feel as it incorporates the building into the actual hill side and forest. Flowering meadows were chosen for both the slopes and the roof as they are easy to maintain and fit in well with the local wood.
Regional pine wood from the region (Forêt des Landes) was chosen for the cladding. This has the advantage of shortening the whole production- distribution chain and makes perfect sense from a environmental view point.
Pine wood from the Landes forest is mainly used for furniture and flooring. However, it is rarely used in construction. It therefore needed to be treated in a specific way to ensure strength and sustainability: to prevent twisting, the strips of wood were jointed together and glued while the wood was still green. Then, they were brushed and stained in local sawmills. This innovative glueing technique has been developed in a research centre called ABO.VE by a group of architects, engineers, researchers and manufacturers (including sawmills). ABO.VE is part of Xylofuture, a competitiveness cluster within the French timber industry backed up by local authorities. Part of European Cluster policy, it helps revitalise innovation in the whole timber industry in France.
The school is therefore a showcase of local savoir- faire and local timber usage.
Landscaping, architecture, control of the environment and innovative techniques have been the prime ingredients of this project. The result is a perfectly scaled building that offers an optimum environmentally friendly solution.