The French city of Nîmes recently welcomed the Ada Lovelace Secondary School, Occitania’s first-ever clean-energy school that’s earned both BEPOS energy level certification and a sustainability rating of Silver-level BDM (Bâtiments Durables Méditerranéens). Opened in the fall of last year, the eco-friendly school is the work of French design firm A+ Architecture. In addition to its energy-saving and -producing features, the Ada Lovelace Secondary School features a bold and contemporary design to help boost the neighborhood’s ongoing urban revitalization efforts.

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tan stone building with narrow windows

Crowned winners of a 2015 design competition for the project, A+ Architecture was tasked to reconstruct the 400-student secondary school to a new site that would also include space for housing for half of the student population, sports facilities, a race track and three staff houses. The 5,898-square-meter school also needed to be held up as a positive sign of urban renewal in the Mas de Mingue district.

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hallway with white walls, wood floors and blue doors
winding white staircase

“Beyond the environmental basics, we have produced a contemporary, bold, powerful and dynamic architectural structure,” the architects explained. “We wanted people to be drawn to this place of education in this difficult neighborhood. Shapes collide, as stainless-steel panels make it seem as though the facades are empty, which are broken up by rows of windows.”

classroom with wood desks and blue floors
wood desks beside windows

Topped with 800 square meters of solar panels, the Ada Lovelace Secondary School is clad in locally sourced stones that vary in size for visual interest and to help give the volume a more human scale. For stable indoor temperatures, the architects insulated the walls with wood and hemp and installed wood boilers for supplemental heating. Students have also been invited to learn about the school’s energy-saving systems through a digital building model accessible through a game and website managed by Citae.

+ A+ Architecture

Photography by Benoit Wehrle via A+ Architecture