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TYPOLOGY, CONSTRUCTION AND SOCIAL RELEVANCE

OPEN Architecture

TYPOLOGY, CONSTRUCTION AND SOCIAL RELEVANCE
By Li Xiangning -

Can architecture reflect - or indeed transform - people’s lives? Architecture practice OPEN Architecture asks itself this question with the three primary concepts underpinning its approach: typology, construction and social relevance. In the words of Li Hu, the firm’s co-director: “It’s all about the relationship between people and society, or people and nature”. Today China’s urban swathes present an artificial, fragmented picture where interpersonal links have become extremely tenuous. Architects, says OPEN Architecture, are therefore called upon to offset this with new spatial typologies that will improve both construction quality and allow interpersonal relations, healing the wounds inflicted on the urban fabric and its building complexes. The firm has taken these three tenets as its compass in the attempt to bridge the visible and invisible gaps in present-day China. The Fangshan Campus of the Beijing No.4 High School aptly sums up this approach. The architecture presents many openings as a way of stimulating student creativity. Standing on an irregular site, it develops vertically with classrooms and public spaces separated by an intermediate floor occupied by a garden. Despite its imposing size, the campus is all about connection, its articulated geometry giving rise to many areas that converge or branch off in different directions. The juxtaposition of industrial materials, like metal mesh and concrete, and natural materials, like timber and stone, create pleasing contrasts that enhance the different qualities of both. Although infrequently used, the smoothed fair-faced concrete is a brilliant choice for this context, giving the surfaces an aesthetically pleasing luminosity. The combination of carefully studied spatial distribution, materials, structures and passive energy features contributes to a complex that not only fits comfortably into its context, but is also conducive to student interaction. The many open and...

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