Reference Groupe scolaire - Otterswiller
© Grégory Tachet

A building with three façades

architectum issue: roof and façade

Reference Groupe scolaire - Otterswiller
© Grégory Tachet

School building extended and renovated

in France

Reference Groupe scolaire - Otterswiller
© Grégory Tachet

Products used

Terca Cassia Black Graphite and custom-made, white-glazed plain tiles

A building with three façades

This newly designed and extended school building is written on the landscape in black and white and creates an ecologically responsible learning space.

School building redesigned in black and white in France

The school in Otterswiller, France, is located on the edge of a 1970s residential area. It used to be a rather inelegant building with a hipped tile roof and little connection to its surroundings. All this changed when the municipality commissioned Urbane Kultur architects to update and extend the existing building.

Modern but respectful

The idea was to integrate the building better into the surrounding landscape and create a connection to neighbouring residential buildings and also the nearby woodland. “The site has a distinctive topography with a difference in elevation of 4 to 6 metres. So the new complex had to be built into the slope, resulting in two floors accessible from ground level”, explains architect Dominique Cornaert of Urbane Kultur. The existing building was enlarged and a second building added to create space for a play school, primary school, after-school care, library, sports hall, dining room and offices.
 
The roof pitches were reduced from four to two and the daylight basement built into the slope was clad in graphite-coloured bricks. “We needed to create simple, clear spaces that emphasised the building’s public status and its role in the life of the community”, says Cornaert. They also wanted the building to have a contemporary look but maintain its connection to the past. “The pointed roof is a nod to the original building but the white façade gives the new school complex a contemporary character.”

Three types of façade

To this end, the designers created the cladding using a combination of three shapes: right from the outset, they knew they wanted to use custom-made white-glazed plain tiles for the roof and façade of the main building, creating an effect somewhat reminiscent of snakeskin. These tiles break up the façade and harmonise perfectly with the snow that often covers the area during the winter. In contrast, the daylight basement level in graphite-black Terca Cassia bricks draws strong, horizontal lines. The original plan was to face this level in concrete. But bricks were eventually chosen after all because “black emphasises the solidity of the basement”, says Cornaert. The whiteness of the buildings contrasts starkly with the mineral shade of the base.
 
The new building is clad in diamond-shaped segments of white-painted aluminium. “This pattern of roof tiles on one building and metal lozenges on the other binds them together and changes its appearance depending on how far away you are”, says the architect, explaining the unusual look. His goals for the project were fulfilled: “The materials used fundamentally redefine the image of the building while maintaining a clear connection to the past.” 

Reference Groupe scolaire - Otterswiller
© Grégory Tachet

Facts & Figures

Project name: Groupe Scolaire Otterswiller, France

Architecture   Urbane Kultur

Client   Otterswiller municipality

Year of completion   2020

Category   Roof and façade, public

Products used   Terca Cassia Black Graphite, and custom-made, white-glazed plain tiles

Reference Groupe scolaire - Otterswiller
© Grégory Tachet

Terca Cassia Black Graphite - France

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