An education in urban regeneration

Kerry Boettcher
17 Mar 2015

Hellin Sebag Architects breathe new life into urban school, Lycée Léonard de Vinci in Montpellier, France

Hellin Sebbag Architects won the competition to renew, revitalise and rebuild the Lycée Léonard de Vinci in Montpellier, France, located in an urban area that is currently undergoing a major transformation. The plan was to retain and renovate the eastern half of the school, which houses facilities for vocational-based teaching. The western half will be demolished and will be completely redesigned with a series of new buildings, the first of which, the reception hall, has now been completed. The challenge was to ensure that the new additions blend with the existing parts. 

Ultimately, all of the school facilities, including the existing study hall, supervisor facilities, residence facilities, cafeteria and student lounge, will lead naturally to the core of the site, which has been left open and refashioned as a leafy courtyard.

The architects wanted to give the school a façade onto the city and highlight its entrance. They built three geometric elements: the first called ‘the grey monolith’, is the main two-storey, compact building, the second, called ‘the red triangle’ is a storey-high metallic overhang resting on pillars. Then eye is drawn to the entrance by the third element, ‘the triangular horizontal sunshade’ a translucent metal awning, which protects the entrance from the sun, rain or wind and creates a sheltered space for students to congregate. 

The design also took into consideration the French HQE environmental quality standards, aiming for low energy consumption, reinforced exterior insulation, double flow ventilation, and systematic external sunscreens to allow for comfort throughout the seasons.

The new design for the Lycée Léonard de Vinci has breathed new life into the school and the urban area of which it is central. 

By Kerry Boettcher

News Editor

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