One of the standout installations at the inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial is, undoubtedly, SPIRIT OF SPACE’s collaboration with OPEN Architecture. This innovative group of moviemakers teamed up with Li Hu’s Beijing-based firm to tell the story of the Garden School in the Chinese capital, and new footage has now been released with compelling commentary on the project by the architect himself:
Li’s knowledge of the complex social and environmental conditions in Beijing drove his search for a wholly new school typology, one that concentrates education, health, and leisure functions to form an ideal environment for learning. The architect reflects on the mistakes made during a period of rapid urbanization in China:
“What is problematic is that these new towns are designed too fast, without much thinking about how the spaces are going to be used and what kind of space they are going to create. I think it is a problem for human psychology. Living in a new town with not enough good green space, good social space, we’ll become very problematic urban animals.”
Inspired by how Confucius taught his philosophies under the trees, the Garden School brings nature and public space to the forefront of the design. SPIRIT OF SPACE’s atmospheric films introduce viewers to this dynamic space by revealing how students interact with each other and with the school. Perhaps most importantly, it shows how students are no longer studying inside conventional and rigid classrooms: here, the teaching goes out into the nature and under the trees of the campus.