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Qingpu Pinghe International School Campus

School as a Village

OPEN Architecture

With the renowned Beijing No. 4 High School Fangshan Campus, OPEN Architecture undoubtedly created a new paradigm for contemporary Chinese campus architecture. The program juxtaposing a series of large volumes containing both non-repetitive public functions and repetitive classroom units - interlinked by elevated connections to leave vital natural spaces between the units - presented new possibilities for often constrained and highly regulated campus architecture. It is a paradigm that has since been often imitated. However, the studio’s recently completed Qingpu Pinghe International School Campus in Qingpu District, Shanghai, explores a different kind of “village-style” campus.

This private school is a product of the recent boom of China’s education industry. Following the internationally accepted K-12 system, the school includes 24 kindergarten classes, 30 primary school classes and 24 secondary school classes. Compared to the Beijing No. 4 High School Fangshan Campus, this is not only a large “super school”, but also a more complex one, catering for a wider pupil age group. Another challenge was the construction cycle: the local government required the project architect to complete planning, design and construction of the entire school and begin teaching within two years of land acquisition.

Challenges and limitations often lead to new approaches to work organization. Inspired by an African proverb - “It takes a village to raise a child” - OPEN affirmed that today children often grow up without the involvement of the whole community. As a result, their design strategy was to leverage the diversity and flexibility of the spatial archetype of the village in order to create a unique and rich school.

The various functions and departments are arranged in a series of different, highly individual architectural forms. The kindergarten is a cellular form around three atriums and a continuous...

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