Hangzhou Chongwen Experimental School, an open school embraced by nature
Design concept: an open school embraced by nature
The new campus is comprised of 36 classrooms of primary school and 12 classrooms of kindergarten. The whole architectural complex is arranged according to the long-shaped base and is divided vertically into three functional divisions with primary school, kindergarten and dormitories from south to north, and the playground is set at the northeast side. It is a mixed-use building that combines different teaching spaces and auxiliary spaces, which functions as an intensive and effective education space.
The new space doesn’t continue the traditional determinantal layout but utilizes particular spaces between educational buildings to enclose many spacious inner courtyards. Therefore, a nested layout makes the greening outside and inside integrate to form a quieter environment. The inner courtyards are not totally closed and connect spaces where the bases of buildings are raised, which extend the playground for students and connect the insides and outside.
In vertical direction, the sunken courtyard enables the underground space to enjoy great sunlight and ventilation. And the design team moved some educational functional spaces that have large volumes but are not often used to the underground area, which alleviates the tough problem between the limit of architectural bulk and necessary functional areas.
The design of central axis shows the openness and freedom of educational spaces. A five-story building, with 15 in width and 88m in length, from the basement to the roof redefines the indoor public activity space. Three types of stairs are grouped into orange stairs, which cantilever the inner atrium and connect each other through the extended activity platforms.
Those public spaces don’t have definite functions but can change uses according to students’ behaviors, such as gallery, theatre, library, studio and game room etc. Glass roof of the atrium introduces abundant sunlight, warming the orange stair railings and the overall space. The atrium space fully shows the certain complex layout of educational space and a pleasant environment, which is also the biggest highlight of the project.
Outdoor space: the space more important than the classroom
The activity places of Chongwen are differentiated from that of traditional school. In traditional campus, students gather at the corridor after class, where the corridor more functions as a pipe and students like the running water. However, in this design, the design team created “harbors” --- free public areas that can accommodate more students like sponge.
As the most convenient rest areas for students after class, “Harbors” are set separately yet evenly between classrooms. The total area of harbors is nearly the same as that of classrooms, which means students in Chongwen can enjoy almost double educational spaces than students in traditional school. Moreover, those public spaces are set at one side of the corridor, classic bag-shaped spaces that features calm ambience because of only one exit, which enable students to play around cheerfully and study quietly. Each harbor has its own theme color and shape, connecting the inside and outside of the mixed-use building. Students in it can feel sunshine and breeze and see green trees.
Multi circulations in kindergarten
The traditional staircase, straight up and straight down, basically has no fun in educational space for kids. Therefore, in the kindergarten, based on kids’ nature of having fun, the design team created a 3-meter-wide slope, extending to the roof from the second floor. The slope enables kids to play pleasantly without interruption of ascending stairs. Besides, more passages are designed based on the slope so that children can go to 3F from the “tree” on 4F or go down straight to the “Dinosaur court” on 1F from 3F. All designs conform to the nature of children, which is benefit for their development physically and mentally.
An excellent kindergarten design can teach children how to play and further help them to develop good habits, concentration, reading ability, exercise capacity and spirit of exploration.
Cross-country track and farm
As for the design of greening and landscape, the designers discarded the common design and created a cross-country track with one kilometer in length starting from the South Entrance. And various landforms are set along the track, including primeval forest, swamp, sports field, small desert, miniature waterfall and so on. The track passes through the whole campus and presents a dramatic change of height as connecting the sunken courtyard, which challenges the physical strength and knowledge of students in a greater way.
Furthermore, the huge roof of the mixed-use building is transformed into a farm equipped with specially designed rain water and gray water recycle system. Students can experience the agricultural process of seeding, irrigating and harvest in person, which is the real life that can not be learned from the books. The design can bring positive influence on students.
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