“One must learn. All men hold in common the ability to feel pleasure and pain. But this resemblance is for each only a probability to be verified. And it can be verified only by the long path of the dissimilar.”
Jacques Rancière, The Ignorant Schoolmaster.
The new French school “Marc Chagall”, located in the Neve Tzedek neighbourhood in Tel Aviv, is composed of two volumes. The main volume has been built around an open courtyard with elders, which the classrooms and the “suspended” stairs face. Around this little garden, which is the eccentric focus of the pathways of the building, there are two stairways rising on the sides, creating a double staircase, which ends at the upper floor in a new open space, a meeting point for the students. The main feature of these stairs is an asymmetric path both from the internal flight of stairs facing the courtyard and from the main garden of the school. This direct path, which leads from the outside to the first floor, is one of the main elements of the façade, which is oriented towards the old building and makes the visitor look at the sky. The second volume is a wide classroom next to the main volume.
The façades of the Marc Chagall School smile – a young pupil used these few simple words to describe our idea of building an unusual shell around the building. Every façade gives the child a different view of the building, also paying homage to the masterpieces of Chagall.
Like in a dream, where different plots mingle with each other, the figures of Over the Town (1914) appear on the façade in front of Shluss Street. The image changes according to the viewing angle, with its traits changing if one approaches. 30 optical panels of aluminium, of different dimensions and created for the painting using a 3D pixel system, transform the colours of the image into many small shadows, created by the particular shape of the panel surfaces, almost making the image a hologram. This creates an optical texture that changes according to the point of view of the observer or the diffusion of artificial light at night. The façade reflects Chagall’s idea of a city with passing figures, animals and objects floating in the air, against the laws of time and gravity.
On the west façade there are the entrance from the courtyard that leads to the classrooms, the deep passage of the stairway and a long line of windows, receiving sunlight from the west. On the long white wall there are some very thin glass panels with pure colours that are not tinted: light blue, orange, red, yellow, blue; flags of imaginary places that only children can see.
These fragments of coloured light are linked to the floor by means of thin steel cables, which support climbing plants: the purple wisteria on the east façade and the jasmine on the west façade. They reach slowly from the ground towards the roof, like in the tale of Jack and the beanstalk. Tales are a source of freedom, which the master Chagall was able to convey with his works.
The colours also continue on the floors of the wide classrooms, which face the surrounding greenery or the sea. The openings were conceived in order to capture the most interesting parts of Tel Aviv’s skyline. The school presents different degrees of luminosity owing to the double line of windows and the internal courtyard, which also provide natural ventilation.