The Great Use of Impractical Spaces
Located in Mount Xiang, Qingxi Town of Dongguan City, Yane Academy, an entrusting administrative member school of the Peking University Affiliated School Group, is hidden in the forest. Facing Xiangshan Road to the north side, the campus is surrounded by natural hills to the east, west and south, where the unique Lingnan climate perfectly coexists with the hilly landscape.
In order to alleviate the serious shortage of K12 places in the Greater Bay Area, the campus is endowed with maximum inclusivity and adaptivity. A vision statement that "Impracticality Makes Great Use, while Ambiguity Casts Grand Forms" is proposed to embrace "Independence of Spirit and Freedom in Thinking", a faith inherited by the Peking University Affiliated School Group. Thus, the most beautiful valley campus has been created based on six strategies of campus place making, including adaptation, escalation, connection, resilience, permeation and mutual presence.
Six Strategies of Campus Place Making
Adaptation: In order to preserve the hilly landform, the campus buildings follow the topography to shape terraces, low and open in the center while high and private around. The total gross area of 140,000 square meters is broken up into 13 buildings, with each building small in size and shallow in depth. The ventilation and shading strategies inherited from traditional Lingnan buildings include deep overhanging eaves, overhead ground level and loggias in air. The master plan conforms to the dominant wind direction in summer, introducing sufficient natural ventilation to lower temperature and humidity throughout the campus.
Escalation: The buildings respond to the mountain contours in the form of terraces. While some buildings are cladded with wood veneer shading devices, most buildings have concrete finish with the paving and metal railings in bright colors. The color system not only creates a lifted-up imagery like valleys and hilltops, but also forms a wayfinding system across the large campus. The theater building at the main entrance, by reflecting the surrounding scenery with its mirror stainless steel cladding, “vanishes” in nature and welcomes teachers and students in a humble and elegant way.
Connection: The circular covered bridge in the center of the campus, also called the "Nebula", connects the academic buildings, theater, gymnasiums and other buildings into an integrated system, a continuous shelter from the sun and rain, enclosing courtyards in various sizes. The nebula accommodates the school house activities on the second floor, with the huge rooftop as children’s running track. All three levels function as the audience stand for the sports field, also as a buffer between the noisy playground and the quiet academic buildings.
Resilience: By employing overhead folding doors and horizontal movable partitions, the boundaries between indoor and outdoor spaces are loose, and the buildings can be easily opened or closed based on the weather and curriculum needs. The orderly structural frames of the academic buildings endow the learning spaces with the ability of reconfiguration, which provides great flexibility for the ever-changing mix of student age groups and the evolution of curriculums. Established with the optional class system, the school has the potential to instantly increase the student capacity. This resilience enables the school to survive changes from weather, curriculums and society demands and hence organically grow.
Permeation and Mutual Presence: The design emphasizes permeation among the architecture, nature and human beings, the demarcations among which are elastic, multi-dimensional and cross-sensory. The wind passes through the halls, the chirping of birds from distant mountains resonates in the campus, and the classmates dance next door, all culminating in a liberal and diverse daily experience, in which education is embedded. There is seldom an absolute “leading role” in the learning environment. The space typologies are designed to promote mutual and equal presence among all the teachers and students. This is the core spirit of education in the Peking University Affiliated School.
The methodology of scenic resort design has been adopted in the Yane Academy campus design, creating less dictating landscape architecture through ambiguous spaces and undulating forms，so that students feel more comfortable being "served" and go beyond limitations to explore self-directing learning and living. This is the essence of "Impracticality Makes Great Use, while Ambiguity Casts Grand Forms"
Compared to other types of architecture, education architecture requires the designer with much more patience and ultimate optimistic expectations to the future. During the design process, the designers have always given priority to education over architecture, and never compromised the long-term perspective when solving immediate problems. While the designers strive to alleviate the shortage of K12 places in the Greater Bay Area, they have also created an effortless atmosphere for the campus to adapt to the future with uncertainty, and to face the mentality of “achieving more with less and quicker” in the current environment. Rather than one size fits all, Yane Academy is born and raised in the Greater Bay where the school gains its resilience and strength to grow.
Inclusive Architectural Practice is a pioneer global architectural design firm focused on K12 design innovation. Established in 2014, with designers from China, U.S. and Europe, IAP provides integrated design in architecture, interiors, landscape, and graphics for education, cultural, research and commercial facilities. At IAP we have faith that Inclusion Inspires Innovation. Through continuous dialogues with project stakeholders, IAP strives to design to environmental, social, and economic standards – the triple bottom line, bringing cutting-edge concepts, artistic experience, and humanity values to each project. The inclusive learning communities design by IAP are highly versatile and adaptable in scale, shape, materials, colors, connectivity, methods of exhibition, levels of comfort and other aspects related to learning and teaching environment, aiming to provide each learner with the most comfortable way to get himself/herself emerged in and focused on learning.