When it comes to private boarding schools, most probably conjure up mental images of stuffy environments with little warmth or comfort. This is certainly not the case with Paris-based Belus & Hénocq Architectes' new addition to the 19th century Maison d'Education de la Légion d'Honneur. The school, located in Saint-Denis area of Paris, now has a beautiful timber-clad learning center and dormitory, whose nature-based design has created a vibrant and healthy educational environment.
Founded by the French emperor Napoléon Bonaparte and inaugurated in 1811, the renowned school sits in a park adjacent to a medieval basilica. This natural environment led the architects to create a nature-focused design using a light timber exterior, large floor-to-ceiling windows, and an open design concept.
Added onto the gable end of a 1950s infirmary building, the new addition is a three-story building with two elongated wings. The dormitory spaces are on the top two floors and the educational center takes up space on the ground floor.
The building’s layout was strategically planned to use the surrounding nature as a focal point in the design. Strolling down one wing of the building, lucky students can enjoy beautiful views of the natural woodland area that was left almost untouched during the construction process. Heading in the other direction, students get an expansive view of the more formal landscaped gardens.
“We wanted to continue the lines of the existing buildings and let the landscape dialogue with the new building in an inside-out composition,” architect Adrien Hénocq told Dezeen.
“The bayonet-shaped plan articulates the landscape sequences, including the urban environment of nearby Saint-Denis, the classic garden and the wood where the building sits. It also allowed us to keep the most beautiful trees.”
Photography by Raphaël Chipault