victor hugo school group is the oldest school in the city of montpellier. the school group needed a rehabilitation in order to update its accessibility, create new classes and reorganize the playgrounds encumbered by a multitude of unused items. the aim of NAS architecture‘s project was to formulate a new articulation, able to introduce a fluidity in movements while bringing new spaces in an already dense islet. this articulation takes form from a suspended courtyard arranged in the center of the island which gives access to the whole building. this element also functions as a playground, a separative and a common place between the two schools. after successfully completing their ‘breath box’ pavilion back in 2014, NAS architecture’s projects carry a similar air of minimalism.

a new element was added to the victor hugo school group as protection, limit and access



built as a bridge, the number of support points of the suspended courtyard is very limited, freeing the view between the two playgrounds and using the structural points as storage and sanitary premises. the architectural identity, reimagined by montpellier-based NAS architecture, is simple and robust where the structural elements form a base of raw concrete and large poles support the passageways. the guardrails, designed for the safety of children, form an ocher-colored ribbon, recalling the shades of the façade, which follow each variation of the project. based on a V-shaped structure supporting micro-perforated plates, these guardrails protect as much as they allow to see. the transparency varies with the hours of the day, the orientation of the sun, the angle of view and the proximity to the mesh.

overview of the courtyard



this constant filter makes it possible to create one-off intimacies without ever being restrictive because, despite a height that is quite important for young children, it allows you to see through, you can read the existing façade from the courtyard and see the whole from the school from the corridors. these corridors have been largely designed to provide places of life usable by students and teachers beyond the simple circulation. the mediterranean climate of montpellier has been a constraint factor solved by the architecture with caps protecting people’s movements during bad weather as well as classrooms, by playing on the shadow on hot days. the corridors also made it possible to eliminate a large number of interior circulations, thus transforming single-oriented classes into crossing spaces to favor natural ventilation. 

a new way to enjoy school



the flow of students is now regulated by these new traffic possibilities, the elevator directly integrated into the existing building allows people with reduced mobility to reach all the classrooms and the courtyard directly. this suspended courtyard has allowed to add an extra quarter of external surface and proposes a new generous and flexible space soon transformed by the teaching staff in educational garden during a workshop with the students. the work on the project has therefore been to promote an architectural journey by multiplying the possibilities of appropriation, the large stairs become platforms, the playground becomes a cage for ball games and corridors of outdoor classrooms.

view from the platform near the pre-existing roofs

the metallic mesh gives a glimpse of the architectural elements

wide walkways allow children to extend their class outdoors

a point of view for everyone

detail of the stairs

view from the courtyard

rehabilitation of the activity room

the façade comes alive at the end of the day

overview at sundown 


designboom has received this project from our ‘DIY submissions‘ feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.


edited by: lynn chaya | designboom

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