The Only Layout
Huazhan campus of Gaoan Road No. 1 Primary School is located in Shanghai, China. With a compact site, this 40-class school was built under a high FAR of 1.4. On this long and narrow site, the only suitable location for the 200-meter track and field is on the west side, which also helps to block traffic noise from Longwu Road. According to building codes regarding setback, fire protection, sunshine and noise control, the main classroom building can only be arranged in two rows on the east side. The multi-function building is then located between the playground and the academic area, accommodating the multifunction hall, covered sports field, gymnasium and other activity spaces. Site limitations and building codes leaved little room for changes. Therefore, how to create a lively educational space in this "only layout" became the most difficult yet meaningful challenge in this project.
Enclosure and Transparency
In the compact layout, we divided the block into four parts and set up passages and staircases between them so that teachers and students can see the scenery of different spaces inside and outside the campus when they pass by. To avoid the separation between the playground and the central courtyard caused by the multi-function building, we lifted the gymnasium to the third floor, and lowered the small theater to semi-underground level and placed green slopes and grandstands around to reduce the impact of the large scale and formed a covered sports field on the second floor. This semi-outdoor space is connected to the gymnasium atrium vertically, and connected to the playground and the central courtyard horizontally. The narrow and long central courtyard will create a sense of constriction, so we added airy bridges to strengthen the connection between the north and the south, bringing a spatial hierarchy to this wooded green space. Through these design strategies of transparency, we established a layered connection between the central courtyard and the surrounding space, and expanded the spatial perception of the campus.
Prefabricated Structure and Spatial Order
The gymnasium and the covered sports field in the multi-function building are both large-span spaces. The main structure adopts a steel frame system supported by shear wall on the second level to achieve an open floor. The shear walls are retracted at the bottom to help open the view of grandstand and highlight the suspension of the upper building. The changing "aperture" openings on the shear walls inputs a fun of eye contact. Since Gaoan Road No. 1 Primary School is Yao Ming’s alma mater, the client pays much attention to the indoor gymnasium. We used braces on the upper part of the steel column to assist the 800mm high steel beam to complete 23-meter span. The triangular area formed by braces is further used to create a semi-transparent space for ventilation and natural lighting, injecting spiritual brilliance into this gymnasium with exposed structural bones.
In order to control the overall cost, the concrete frame structure of the classroom building and office building adopts a combination of prefabricated and cast-in-place reinforced concrete structures. Compared with ordinary prefabricated systems, we have made three new attempts. One is to use a cantilever to support the outer corridor of the single-row classroom building to obtain a free interface between the corridor and the courtyard. The collateral single-span issue was solved by a shear wall in between the span; the second is to eliminate the secondary beams and ceilings by using prefabricated profiled reinforced concrete composite slabs. The electrical pipelines and the sprinkler branch pipes can all be lied along the grooves of the slabs, so that the 7.5mx 9m classroom unit gains the largest clearance and integrality of space. The third is to enlarge the joints of prefabricated reinforced concrete beams and columns, which improves the reinforcement and cast-in-place conditions of the junctions. The enlarged semi-arch column heads form the basic framework of form order. The structural element of the arch frames is constantly reproduced in school gates, lobbies, corridors, classrooms, cabins, libraries and gymnasiums, becoming the motif of spatial shaping.
Activation through Body & Mind
In order to encourage diversified educational methods and social ecology, we explore new types of space to provide more spatial support for quality education.
In the classroom unit, the semi-arched column "frames" help students to concentrate. The integrative ceiling without sub-beam, the symmetrical window sashes on both sides help to give the space a stable order and bring even and warm light to the classroom.
The design of circulation spaces activate communication, which can be seen at the rope stair in multi-function building, the color distinction of the stair with deformation joint, and the three-dimensional courtyard composed by zigzag corridors. In the corridor, the semi-arched cantilever structure leaves free space on the facade for a translucent wall made of metal mesh, glulam stools and reading panels. Together with the schoolbag cabinets and benches inside the corridor, they become fixed furniture in the corridor space. By naturally and unconsciously activating children’s and teacher’s behaviors. We also placed various semi-outdoor "cabins" on each classroom floor. Equipped with drinking fountains, operating tables and smart bookshelves, these "cabins" not only provides a nearby play area for the break between classes, but can also work as semi-outdoor classrooms and gathering spaces.
Through in-depth interpretation, we used the ontological power of architecture to explore the diversification and differentiation of teaching and communication spaces, and imputed dedicated spirit into this campus.
Scenic Architecture Office was founded in Shanghai in 2004. In any project undertaken, they start from the needs of body and mind, and that of nature and society. They try to establish a balanced and dynamic relationship between these components through ontological orders composed by space, time and tectonics, and to carve a new identity for contemporary architecture niched between Chinese tradition and the future. Scenic Architecture Office’s works have been widely published and earned awards like Architizer A+ Award, Archdaily Annual China Architecture Award, WAACA Award, Far Eastern Architectural Design Award, China Architecture Media Award. Their works have also been invited to partake in various exhibitions, including Venice Architecture Biennale, Milano Triennial, New Trends of Architecture in Europe and Asia-Pacific in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Shenzhen Biennale, Shanghai Urban Space Art Season, etc.
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