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School Extension in Versailles; Joly & Loiret

To the Rhythm of the Music: School Extension in Versailles

The Groupe Scolaire Lully-Vauban is about one-and-a-half kilometres from Louis XIV’s palace in a central residential area of Versailles. Multi-storey apartment houses shelter the school complex from the busy Avenue de Paris. A narrow side street that leads through a gateway under the apartment blocks is the main access. Anyone approaching the school from here can hardly miss the school extension by Joly & Loiret. At this point, the light, hand-built exterior wall juts as high as 14 metres. The letters Conservatoire, carved as a brick relief into the wall, are an unmistakeable sign of the building’s purpose. The ground floor is home to four music practice rooms and an extension to the school’s cafeteria; the upper level accommodates two dance studios.

Behind the homogeneous shell of shingle dressing there is a heterogeneous wall construction: while the ground floor has been worked in massive concrete, the upper storey was built primarily with wood. The light-glazed roof tiles have been tonally matched with the exterior walls and façades of the adjoining apartment buildings. They form a pale juxtaposition to the reddish asphalt of the adjacent street and schoolyard. Although the windows in the ground-floor rooms have high parapets to let in daylight but avoid nosy glances from the yard, the dance studios on the upper floors, which feature floor-depth glazing, have a significantly more open design. Skylights in the raised roof surfaces provide additional light and support the natural ventilation as well.

The broad corridor on the ground floor sets a palpable contrast to the dance and music rooms, which have been kept in white. The corridor serves not only as a distribution area, but also as a place to spend time and have a break. Here the window soffits, built-in furnishings and floors consist of oakwood. The walls are plastered in dark grey; for the ceiling, Paris artist Marie Maillard created a work in gold-ochre shades that are (according to the architects) meant to recall »nature, the sun, the movements of dance and the humming of music.«

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