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Monday, April 23, 2012

Family Crèche



Family Crèche in Drulingen, France by Fluor Architects, 2010

Drulingen is a small town in the Alsace region of northeastern France. One of the main routes into town from the nearby motorway is Rue de Phalsbourg, on which this "Family Crèche" (child care center, day care center, kitchen) designed by Strasbourg's Fluor Architects sits. Its site determines much of the building's design, not only since it is at an entrance to the town, but also because it sits adjacent to an old police station. The design melds these three realms: road, edge (of town), and existing building.

The most evident means of relating to the site is found in the wood lattice that covers the long elevation facing the road. Fluor Architects -- the duo of Hervé Schneider and Guillaume Avenard -- treat the lattice with a regular, rectangular grid of timber sticks at 45-degrees to horizontal. Variation is found in the infill -- smaller members at different angles and spacings -- as well as the occasional openings and the way the roofline seems to blindly cut the lattice. The character of the openings is most pronounced at the entrance, where the cut curves up on the sides to the double-door header.
The facility is seen as a cocoon sheltering the most fragile, ... where the child starts his life in society. -Fluor Architects
The relationship to both the edge condition and the existing building on the site is found in the massing of the building, a two-story structure that steps down from the police station to the tip of the triangular plot. Combined with the lattice elevation, this gives the impression that the building erodes or disintegrates towards the south and east. Yet as the photo at left attests, this stepping also creates a series of terraces and brings daylight into second-floor spaces deep within the triangular plan. The stepping responds as much to the sunlight as the shape of the site and other factors.

While the wood lattice veils any indication of what is happening inside -- strengthening the architect's assertion that the building protects its occupants -- the rooftop photo at right gives a better indication of the character of the interiors. Splashes of color are found in both the skylights and the variously sized window openings. A look inside reveals portals lined with colors, enlivening otherwise white spaces for the children. Corridors add even more color, to the point of supersaturation. The result is a building that creatively responds to its site while creating a light-filled interior playfully in tune with the children using them.

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