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School Rises Colorfully from the Ashes


By Jill Pilaroscia

Last year in Normandy, France, the Jean Moulin Elementary School reopened after a terrible fire burned much of the structure to the ground.

And this was no accident: The 2009 fire was the result of an arson attack.

Ecole Jean Moulin
All images property of Prinvault Architectes via

Facing its traumatic past head-on, Ecole Jean Moulin used colorful cladding to evoke the blaze that destroyed its predecessor.

A fire, especially one at a school, is a tragic and scary event for any community. But this school and the minds at the Parisian architectural practice Prinvault Architectes decided to face those fears straight on.

Using colors taken from photographs of the fire, the building's new scheme acknowledges the past while looking toward the future—all with color!

Ecole Jean Moulin

To achieve the color palette, the architects analyzed a digital photo to find that "a spectrum of 2.5% black, 2.5% zinc yellow, 2.5% yellow gold, 2.5% red-brown, 25% orange-red, burgundy 25%, and 40% carmine red" comprised the hues of the fire.

Once the colors were chosen and organized by quantity, the team used a list randomizer to choose the order of the colors along the facade.

The interior also transforms the colors of the burning fire into a warm, happy, energetic color scheme. Paired with a main hallway lined with kid-sized alcoves for playing games, reading and studying, the whole school feels rich and welcoming. 

Ecole Jean Moulin

(Prinvault also invited pupils to visit the school during construction. And the firm's work was not done when the school reopened. To help the pupils "forget the flames and overcome trauma," Prinvault invited the students to make a film of the school, available here.)

So while your next color project may not be on this scale, we can take techniques used in this project and apply them to our own for new and creative color inspiration.

Creating Color Combinations

In a previous post, we introduced you to Kuler, Adobe's fantastic color palette creator. It lets you create color combinations using a straight color wheel or upload an image and play with combining colors directly from it.

Ecole Jean Moulin

For our adventurous readers, we recommend taking the list of colors you generate from your images and after deciding on the quantity of each (how many times each should appear in your project and thus on the list) pop them in to this list randomizer and see what computer-assisted color magic you can come up with.

If you use this technique for your next color scheme we'd love to hear about it!

More projects by Prinvault are available here.


Jill Pilaroscia

“Life in Color” is co-authored by architectural color consultant Jill Pilaroscia (pictured), BFA, and creative writer Allison Serrell. Pilaroscia’s firm, Colour Studio Inc., is based in San Francisco. A fully accredited member of the International Association of Color Consultants, Pilaroscia writes and lectures widely on the art and science of color.



Tagged categories: Color; Color + Design; Colour Studio Inc.; Consultants; Designers; Building design; Color matching; Color selection; Design; Schools

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