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Jungle books: Nursery in Boulogne-Billancourt, France, by Hondelatte Laporte Architectes.

Seeing this building recalled the work of the celebrated artist and sculpture David Mach. But surprisingly when I learned it was a nursery school in Boulogne-Billancourt, beautifully designed by Hondelatte Laporte Architectes, my immediate enthusiasm transformed into a more contemplative mood.

Although the nursery is tremendous fun, let us pause to consider what else it says.

I can see how as a totem the children, and possibly their parents and staff who are associated with the school, will take proud possession of it. In the urban context too, the building has lots to offer. It imparts a welcome pause in the fairly austere street frontage, and offers a spire-like marker for an important building. In our secular society why are spires on churches common and go unquestioned, whilst spires on nursery schools rare?

My trepidation, if that is the correct word, comes from the notion that the giraffe is used like a sugar coating on a bitter pill. The “pill” being “school” that children MUST attend. What does this say about education, and for that matter the role of architecture?

In this sense, what is a wonderfully sculptural and creative building seems somewhat devalued as architecture, where, as art, there would unlikely be a crisis of the currency. If stimulating debate has value this building shows much worth.


Train sculpture by David Mach. Photo: Photowilliams.


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