In designing a school, we avoid creating a cold, mechanical experience for the students learning here. Instead, we let the school closely ties in with the students and their life experience, that is, the school becomes a space, a part of the students’ life experience. We wish to give what the students really need while they spend six years in this school.
This project is to design a new campus for Tianjin No.4 Middle School, an area of 58,000 square meters. Campus space combines with the north-south axis at the Lishuidao main entrance, dividing the campus into two functional zones A and B. Zone A is for academic buildings, Zone B for living and sports. Zone A and Zone B are tightly connected through the axis. Along the axis from south to north are open spaces - canteen, gymnasium, and podium. The podium cuts through the building on the west side of Zone A in line with the greenery on the rooftop. As a transitional space between academic building and gymnasium, the podium is a place for students to talk, think and relax.
Academic buildings are clustered on the north side, separated by the canteen and gymnasium to filter out the traffic noise from the overhead bridge. The living area and gymnasium are on the south side to facilitate the gymnasium open to the public. School History Hall, library, canteen, gymnasium and podium are open spaces to connect the entire campus for learning, sports, and living. The garden, podium around the buildings, and the greenery on the rooftop are the expansion of the landscape design - extending activity space outdoor, so that the students can choose indoor/outdoor places to learn or think.
Classrooms are the most central component in an academic system. Therefore, placing them on the highest floor implies metaphysical meaning. In addition, classrooms can be viewed as a functional block for lighting and cabling. Now the classrooms have metaphysical meaning through the use of the metaphysical method. Public spaces: Academic hall, corridor, school history hall and entrance hall, served for floating blocks to support academic space.
This RSAA design – large blocks of functional public space below, also applies in other types of buildings, such as Nanjing Wuji Jinling Hotel, Ji'ning Culture Center, and even in some urban design projects. Grouping these spaces on the first two floors is to ensure accessibility, to allow safe discharge of the large crowds of students, continuity of their learning and limited time they spent here. Therefore, in this project, building blocks restrict the enclosed podium to form different podium spaces, making a rich visual effect to realize the goal that stimulating learning experience by public space.
The school is located in a highly urbanized area. Therefore, on one hand, we connect the visual effect with the city so that the users (teachers, students) can see the rich urban fabric of Tianjin, the streets and city life. But the campus is an ivory tower. It should have a conversation with the city, at the same time it has to keep a distance from the city. On the north side of the campus is a strip-shaped block floating on an old small residential area. Yet underneath is a wild space open to the streets. It is also the main entrance of the school.
The eastside is an academic corner, by virtue of its dialogue with the main streets. The playground on the west side is a place for all-rounded students to thrive and succeed. In the south, the school runs contrary to the city. In fact, Tianjin No.4 Middle School is a large continuous education complex responding differently in attitude and status of an urbanized city.
The “expression” of building facade also responds differently. For example, on the north side of the school, the opening formed by the axial corridor on the top floor is actually a large window to view the entire Tianjin city from above. Visually, since the school is located on the south side of Tianjin, this gigantic window brings all Tianjin districts into architectural spaces.
On the east side of the school, together with the academic buildings form a range of small flatland, small spaces, semi-private, open yet relatively enclosed. They create a very lively, interactive environment for teachers and students. The contemporary facade in the south mixes with a classic feel, with light and shadow moving rhythmically into the public spaces.
Even the students also want to live a rhythmical and quality life. This is also what we consider when we design the living zone. The dormitory is always not a top priority in traditional school. But in the new campus of Tianjin No.4 High School, the space for dormitory includes activity area, canteen, bringing a quality living experience for the students. For instance, the ‘light well’ of the canteen and entrance to the dormitory, every facade brings light to improve living quality. Teaching and learning not only happen in academic buildings, living area is also a part of school education, a part which is even more important.
Due to limited land, the result is a terrace-like podium in front of the sports ground. The podium as one public space creates a majestic facade inside the school. The academic building blocks punctuate ceremonial function of the school and let the students feel part of the school as well. Meanwhile, the podium on the east-west axis creates some new interesting indoor-outdoor spaces and interacts with the public spaces along the existing north-south axis. All these spaces are possible places for landscape and plants to reflect a humanistic school, a green ecological campus.
RSAA/ Büro Ziyu Zhuang was founded in 2010, in which Ziyu Zhuang works as the chief architect, and it is one of RSAA GmbH members.
Meanwhile, Ziyu Zhuang is a partner of the German RSAA design group which was founded in 1965, operating in Cologne and owning around 80 architects. Based in Beijing, Büro Ziyu Zhuang aims to use the connections from Germany and China to establish a new design vocabulary making use of the resources of both to create a new element of thought, a fusion of European and Chinese architecture. This will create a new and unique style which takes advantage of the two-way system, bringing Chinese influences to Europe, crafting a new line of thought that surpasses the constraints of each individual culture, and vice versa.