Public Service Facilities in Neuvecelle

Atelier PNG | Émilien Robin architecte | Julien Boidot

Architects: atelier PNG, atelier Julien Boidot, Émilien Robin and Atelier des Cairns
Location: Neuvecelle, France
Area: 3,220.00 m2
Year: 2021
Photography: Clément Guillaume and PNG

This community facilities center (a nursery school, an elementary school, a gymnasium, a library and a school canteen) designed by the trio Atelier PNG, Julien Boidot and Emilien Robin for the village of Neuvecelle in Haute-Savoie, just won the most prestigious French architectural award, the Équerre d’argent 2021. The architects worked on a family of buildings, inspired by vernacular mountain architecture but resolutely contemporary in their materiality, their openness and fluidity. The project generates an interesting interplay between the programs, the urban context and the landscape of Lake Geneva with a very attentive scale relationship with its users and especially the children.

A Family of Buildings

The commission was the construction of several community facilities: a nursery school, an elementary school, a gymnasium, a library and a school canteen. Faced with the challenges of such an extraordinary program in an ordinary village, a generic response would have been to design a unitary signal building. Instead, PNG proposes a series of buildings which reinterpret the archetypes of mountain architecture and blend discreetly into this small town located on the shores of Lake Geneva.

The project consists of eight different buildings, scattered on either side of a covered path but united by a “family resemblance”. Because, given such a unitary urban fabric, any architectural gesture would have scrambled the domestic scale of the place, the architects worked on a typology, granulometry and size of buildings that are similar to the context so that none of the additions are perceived as out of scale.

Sharing and Dilations

The location of each facility on the plot promotes rich interactions between the programs, the outdoor spaces, the urban context and the landscape. Many accesses are created while the town penetrates the parcel through the covered passage, which crosses the site from east to west.

This draftboard organization of solids and voids along a main artery generates a quality landscape through the creation of multifunctional interior patios and courtyards protected from the prevailing winds. The embankment is used to install slides, orchards, bleachers, terraced gardens and other informal uses. From the classroom windows and from the covered path, kindergarten children can see their future school and occasionally mingle with older children.

Suburban Banality

Spaces of ordinary banality contain multiple resources that contemporary architecture is able to reveal. Here, the transformation of existing constructions and the emergence of new buildings resulted from a study of vernacular mountain architecture. The heritage is respected for what it is: a legacy, a building to be transformed. While avoiding any pastiche effect, the new additions engage in a courteous dialogue with the past through effects of analogy and contrast. By moving away from a purely formal gesture, this project invites the public to take a new look at the urban condition of Neuvecelle by attempting to restore its dignity.