Collège Protestant Français de Jeunes Filles
Beirut, Lebanon

Michel Écochard undertook the Protestant College project in Beirut at the same time as that of the University of Karachi. This school is located in the heart of the Lebanese capital. Écochard was now plying his trade with the new status of liberal architect from his Paris office located in Montparnasse, a change of status that provided a new space for expression through the potential diversity of clients and especially through his reunion with architecture.

With the Protestant College, Écochard is said to have built one of the most modern and functional schools: a landmark of modernity in the Beirut landscape. The comprehensive program, planned for a thousand students, covered classes from kindergarten to high school.

The design is characterized by a great purity of line, rhythms are sought after in the treatment of façades and there is a continuity between open spaces and enclosed ones, like the teachers’ library which leads to a rest area outdoors, called the iwan by the teachers (a reference to local terminology), and finally, the use of sun-screens, dear to the architect, on certain buildings The ground plan of this school includes the main building and its service areas, and two out-buildings, one located at the bottom of the plot, the other a little behind and parallel to the main building The main principle which governed this provision was to have buildings on the outskirts of the land with the goal of freeing-up the largest space possible for gardens.

The choice of materials reflects most explicitly the modernity of the architecture, the project being built entirely of reinforced concrete and using of raw concrete outside. The use of modular spans, standard elements in the primary and secondary schools, including their annexes, characterizes the approach to construction. For the architect new techniques have as their first mission the need to meet the expectations of the new pedagogy.

In his architectural dialogue with the site, the architect used the slope of the land with intelligence, and attached importance to the general landscape and climatic conditions. The southern orientation of the buildings allows the use of sunlight in winter and easy protection against the high sun. The sun shades, within this logic, are designed so that the sun cannot penetrate at certain hours of the day, depending on the season. As for ventilation, it operates from the south face to the north face of the building with overhead bays at ceiling level and running the entire length of the classrooms. The architecture of the Protestant College in Beirut expresses an optimized functional approach to the extreme, but it does, however, have the merit of being based on a good knowledge of the realities of the daily operation of the college. Michel Écochard advanced an aesthetic based on "the joy and harmony essential to the development of students through a strict study of proportions based on the ‘golden ratio.’

Source: Aga Khan Trust for Culture

Beirut, Lebanon
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Girls' French Protestant College
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