SASAKI - Xinyang University South Bay Campus, China’s high education
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Xinyang University South Bay Campus, China’s high education


Education / Future

Xinyang University is an emerging leader in China’s private higher education sector. With 22,000 students on the current campus, the University is planning the new South Bay expansion that will increase enrollment by an additional 17,000. The new campus includes five liberal art schools and departments in a scenic live-learn environment.

The master plan provided a unique challenge: to design the campus for a new university that embraces the implementation of forward-thinking liberal arts academic pedagogy of interdisciplinary, collaborative, and project-based learning with the holistic development of each student. The primary objective of the planning process was to develop a campus that is conducive to the realization of the university’s mission: to redefine liberal arts education in China by creating a new pedagogical model that embraces multi-disciplinary learning, to become China’s leading residential university and to formulate a new paradigm that focuses on developing socially conscious and collaborative professionals.


From the outset, university leadership and the consultant team developed a bold vision that integrates social, economic, environmental, and educational ambition to create an alternative model for providing higher education in China. The new campus strives to advance the educational mission of the privately-owned university as a 21st-century liberal arts institution focusing on collaborative and experiential learning. Extensive in-depth research into the characteristics of the site, its ecoregion, climatic conditions along with a series of site visits, interactive work sessions and charrettes with stakeholders, guided the evolution of a highly collaborative and iterative planning process.


A comprehensive array of social, communal and recreational facilities form the armature of student life on campus. Academic and social life are thought of as seamlessly integrated and a series of indoor and outdoor gathering spaces and courtyards supported by a series of interactive hubs (café, digital library, recreation facilities) are created throughout the plan, to support informal learning, gathering and socializing. Student housing is organized into a series of tight-knit clusters integrated into the topography with lower levels housing shared academic and social spaces that encourage community building and create strong ties back to aca¬demic teaching and learning.


The university is committed to developing a culture that respects and integrates learning and living with the rich ecological context. The plan responds to its site context through a variety of environmentally conscious development strategies, including preservation of upland woodland habitat, as well as improvement to the seasonal streams and wetlands as part of the connected regional watershed.

Topography and natural drainages play key roles in campus planning, creating opportunities to incorporate ecologically enriching landscapes paired with a sustainable phasing strategy. The ridgeline and two valleys become the key spatial features of the campus structure, functioning as a primary campus amenity integrating stormwater management, diversity of natural habitat, spaces for student recreation, and outdoor learning. Inspired by the vernacular landscape, the campus offers spaces ranging from formal campus quads to an array of naturalistic landscapes, even a tea plantation, each with its own aesthetic, management processes, and ecological considerations. From preserved woodlands to wetlands that convey and treat storm-water, the masterplan chooses diverse plants to provide resources for wildlife throughout the year while considering seasonal interest for student recreation.

A hierarchy of trail system connects the entire campus while providing students with varied spaces for movement, recreation, and congregation. Strong connections between the academic, residential, and student life areas promote living-learning communities and enhance the vibrancy of the campus core. Building and key program destinations are within a 5-minute walk, making the campus a pedestrian-oriented environment with vehicular access and parking located on the edges of the campus.


The master plan provides strategies for energy saving, waste management, topsoil conversation, and a campus nursery to enhance the campus landscape. Leveraging Xinyang’s temperate climate, building design reduces campus energy consumption by allowing natural ventilation and maximizing winter solar gain. In addition, electricity generation through solar PV arrays is coupled with solar water heating for dining and showering facilities. On-site composting and holistic waste management help minimize campus waste output by turning kitchen scraps into nutrient-rich organic matter that can benefit campus landscape maintenance. Indigenous soil is also stockpiled and preserved during construction, with an efficient phasing strategy to minimize campus soil compaction.


The Master Plan takes advantage of the morphology of the site by concentrating the development of academic and student housing around the central ridge and the ravines. This strategy enables the preservation of key watersheds on-site, balances cut and fill and creates a series of diverse open space experiences. The plan also outlines a detailed approach to a sustainable and phased development of the campus that minimizes ecological impacts and harnesses the natural setting to establish a diverse and vibrant public realm. Phase one of the campus (100,000 sm) is currently in design with implementation completion scheduled for 2023.


 Xinyang University
 Tao Zhang, Romil Sheth, Caitlyn Clauson, Lan Ge, Muhan Cui, Yang Huang, Jingyi Hu, Andrew Sell, Kelly Farrell, Elangovan Govindan, Qiuying Sun, Benjamin Zunkeler, Phillip Bruso, Tamar Warburg, Stephen Kun, Junran Yang, Julian Wei, Liyuan Ge


Sasaki comprises architecture, planning, urban design, landscape architecture, graphic design, interior design, and civil engineering, as well as financial planning and software development. Among these disciplines, we collaborate in equilibrium, and each is recognized nationally and internationally for design excellence. On our teams, practitioners from diverse backgrounds come together to create unique, contextual, enduring solutions. Our integrated approach yields rich ideas, surprising insights, unique partnerships, and a broad range of resources for our clients. This approach enables us to work seamlessly and successfully from planning to implementation. While our disciplines offer depth of expertise, our studio structure engenders breadth, innovation, and interdisciplinary collaboration. From our headquarters in metro Boston, USA, and with an office in Shanghai, we work in a variety of settings—locally, nationally, and globally.

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