|The French School of Seoul has been refashioned. Courtesy of David-Pierre Jalicon|
By Jung Min-ho
The addition, which increased the school's capacity to 650 students from 450, has since been welcomed by students, teachers and parents.
David-Pierre Jalicon, chairman of the French-Korean Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FKCCI) and an architect, shared his stories behind the design in a recent interview.
"The purpose of the construction project was to extend the capacity of the school (creation of 11 new classrooms), to reorganize the connection between all the buildings and provide better general services through up-to-date facilities," Jalicon said. "At the same time, most of the existing areas have been renovated and the classrooms have been standardized in order to welcome any class age, depending the demand."
Before proceeding with the project, the school reviewed all possibilities, including relocation. But given its long history and deep connection with the French community in the Soreamaul area, the school eventually decided to stay there and purchased land nearby for the extension. Jalicon took charge of designing it.
A school, he thought, should be a place where students should be safe. "This is expressed by the west facade of the building which takes the form of a solid and static screen looking like a protective hand blocking the street annoyances," he said.
The French educational system defines a school not only as a place where students learn but also as a place where they develop creativity. Jalicon expressed the idea with the glass facade facing the inner courtyard, which is light and has a curved shape expressing motion.
"It develops an interesting contrast and balance between those two facades which can be regarded as an echo to a Taoist approach," he said.
"Inside, next to the solid facade, the staircases are located; on the other side the classrooms are facing the glass facade to get maximum natural light. The glass has small white spots to bring both intimacy and solar protection."
Everyone loved the result.
"The children first, thanks to more fluid circulation, additional breathing spaces or ones for activities. It is important as probably children are spending more time these days in a school not only for curricular activities but as well for many extra-curricular activities," Jalicon said.
"The parents and the French community here have also received the building well, as it gives a vision and perspective for the future French presence in Korea … They are proud as I'm, in terms of image, as the building generates a modern, welcoming and friendly perception of France and a feeling of collective belonging, which is shared among many Koreans who takes pictures of themselves in front of the building."
Jalicon said he has a strong emotional attachment to the school after taking charge of the design part for its first big extension project in 1998.
"It was my first built project in Korea and I would probably not be here today without it," he said. "Indeed, this project had been well recognized and brought me other opportunities. It was as well very meaningful for me to be appointed 20 years after by the French Parents Association for the construction of the new building."
Jalicon came to Korea in 1996 and has worked as an architect since. He is well known for his ability to integrate traditional values in contemporary architecture.