Xinsha Elementary School: New Campus and New CommunityProject backgroundXinsha Elementary School is a part of the “8+1 Futian New Campus Action Plan” initiated by the Shenzhen Municipal Planning Bureau, trying to explore a new type of elementary school campus under the high density requirement. The campus occupies an area of 11,000 square meters.
A new school building with a total construction area of about 37,000 square meters was designed on the demolished old school site, accommodating 36 classes and 5 reserved classrooms.
In order to rebuild the harmonious relationship between the campus and the neighborhood, we decided to avoid using fences and designed an arcade instead.
The picture of the ideal school in our imagination is that children are running and playing all over the campus with vigorous and smiling faces. Therefore, the design of the main entrance as its representation presents a natural and soft atmosphere like a park landscape entrance. Photo:01 The main entrance to the campus ©Zhang Chao Photo:02 The public space along Xinzhou 3rd Street ©Zhang ChaoThe relationship between the campus and the cityThe benches arranged along the arcade provide a resting space for students’ parents and community residents with the shade and a shelter from the rain.
Looking up, you can see students playing on the platform and hear their romp. There are lush roadside trees more than 10m high along the street. And, in order to echo this wild streetscape, the ceiling of the arcade is made of wood-textured concrete, and the walls are made of rough-textured terracotta tiles. Photo:03 The powerful street scene with big trees and textured concrete canopy ©Zhang Chao Photo:04 The unique shaped-column at the entrance ©Zhang Chao Photo:05 The public space along Xinzhou 3rd Street ©11architecturePodium and towerWe tried to replace the role of fence wall with the height difference between the streets and the campus, covering the entire site with a podium, and elevating the main activity ground up on the second floor.
Through the S-shaped layout, the teaching building encloses the north and south courtyards, the north courtyard opens towards the large playground of the school, and the south courtyard opens towards the city crossroads. The teachers and students walking through the teaching building can alternately see the scenery inside and outside the school, and experience the sense of locality of the school and the community they are in. Photo:06 S-shaped teaching building layout ©Zhang Chao Photo:07 Raised campus platform ©Zhang Chao Photo:08 Street view from crossroads ©Zhang ChaoPlanning regulations and a special approvalThe library and restaurant arranged along the street on the first floor of the arcade are separated from the outside by just a wall.
We developed two designs of the wall in order to deal with the sensitive edge of the campus: one is a large fixed glass that ensures lighting and sight; the other is the louver made of horizontal terracotta bars and operable glass windows inside that ensure the natural ventilation with safety.
The arcade space is within the site boundary and it is owned by the school. Through its community sharing to improve the urban space, the school was granted a special approval by the Planning Bureau of “less building step-back”, gaining a large platform at the second-floor level. Photo:09 Arcade design ©11architecture Photo:10 View of the library in the arcade from the street ©Zhang Chao Photo:11 Indoor view of the library with two kinds of window opening ©Zhang ChaoArchitectural space and children’s bodyOur team is responsible for the architecture, landscape and interior design of the entire campus.
In the design process, making scenes of lively activities with smiles on children’s face is one of our goals. If children engage in happy activities outside the classroom in their daily lives, their concentration and enthusiasm for classroom learning will naturally increase. When we set this goal, the architectural design method will be adjusted accordingly: the design that can make children smile should be closer to the children’s body and experience, stimulating their exploration and imagination.
Following this idea, we began to consider the size of the space suitable for children, and focused on the color and texture of the material. This design method is closer to landscape design than architectural design. Photo:12 Design strategy: platform building and theme playground ©11architectureTheme playgroundChildren are natural explorers. They like to use space freely to create original play and learn in the play.
We have designed a variety of “themed playground” spaces for the school, and these themes are not obtained through commercial thematic decorations, but through the design of spatial forms. Children can freely develop related play and activities in different theme playground. On the campus of this school, there are “Green forest”, “Village alley”, “Triangular hills”, “Dome castles”, “Hill road”, “Rooftop farms”, etc.
We carried out architectural design from the perspective of landscape, making hard buildings soft, coordinating the scale of buildings and people, and creating a rich spatial experience. Photo:13 Themed playgrounds scattered throughout the campus ©11architecture Photo:14 South courtyard Green forest ©Zhang Chao Photo:15 Floating bridge in the Green forest ©ACF Photo:16 South courtyard Green forest ©Zhang Chao Photo:17 North courtyard ©Zhang Chao Photo:18 Triangular hills ©Zhang Chao Photo:19 North courtyard and conical skylights ©ACF Photo:20 Conical skylights below the Triangular hill ©Zhang Chao Photo:21 Art and cultural complex, “Dome castles” ©ACF Photo:22 Dance studio and its roof made of wooden formwork fair-faced concrete ©ACFPlatform architectureBecause of the design of corridors and balconies surrounding the functional rooms, the teaching building appears layered-slabs.
According to the building regulations, the minimum height of the window sill is 90cm, and that of many new schools is often designed higher than 1.2m. It is difficult for students to look out the scenery even if they stand up. Thanks to the external balconies, the window sill of the classroom of Xinsha Elementary school is only 50cm high.
The first-grade students can see outside while sitting on their seats, and the classrooms are thus opened to became an activity space on the platform. The external balconies also have the advantages of horizontal shading, allocating plants, cleaning the external windows, and maintaining the air conditioners. Photo:23 No boxes but activity space ©11architecture Photo:24 50cm high classroom windowsill ©11architecture Photo:25 Landscape installation on the platform ©Zhang ChaoGuardrail designThe guardrail of the teaching building replaced the solid balustrade wall and became an important building facade expression.
We avoided using the conventional guardrail style of frame columns + thin rods, and used thick and thin columns to be arranged in a three-dimensional space to weaken the sense segregation and strengthen the sense of lightness. Bright green color was applied on the railings to emphasize the presence of the continuous platform. Photo:26 Guardrail design ©Zhang ChaoLandscape installationOn the entrance steps of Xinsha Elementary school, there are a few walking grass-green “little animals”, which are like handrails and sculptures, and they are not “architectural” at all.
Such “little animals” hide in small public spaces on campus, waiting for students to find them and play with them. The prototype comes from the five special-shaped stools designed for the Yutian Village Community Project in Shenzhen. They play hide-and-seek in the urban jungle of the city village. On this basis, Xinsha has developed a total of 49 landscape installations of various shapes.
The design has two meanings. First, these installations can be used as landscape furniture or amusement facilities, and can also create a place for communication. When interacting with them, children use their bodies to perceive the space and create new play together with friends; Second, these installations create a space suitable for the scale of children.
From the perspective of children, the teaching building appears too large and monotonous, while landscape installations can connect large architectural spaces with small children’s bodies. Photo:27 Five “little animals” in Yutian Village ©11architecture Photo:28 “Little animals” in Yutian Village ©11architecture Photo:29 Landscape installation on the platform ©ACF Photo:30 Landscape installation on the platform ©Zhang Chao Photo:31 Landscape installation on the platform ©Zhang ChaoStructural and BIM designShenzhen Tianhua is responsible for the design and submission of the construction drawings.In terms of structural design, the teaching building of Xinsha Elementary School mainly adopts a frame-shear wall structure.
Special structures such as large span steel beams(indoor playcourt and swimming pavilion), steel-concrete composite structure（4m’s cantilevered arcade）, concrete filled steel tube columns（the tree-shaped column at the entrance）, thin-shell concrete（red fortress）are adopted to meet the needs of the various spaces. The clear space height is guaranteed by strictly controlling the beam height and some embedded pipelines through concrete beams.
BIM forward design as applied in this project.
In the design stage, each discipline performs spatial integration and pipeline synthesis in the 3D model. The deliverables are 3D BIM models and 2D drawings. 3D drawings are provided for construction and used to guide on-site construction. BIM makes the collaboration of all professions more smooth, and make the communication between architects, clients, contractors and other related parties more efficient.Community sharingAnother goal of the “8+1 New Campus Action Plan” is to explore campus design that is open to the community.
The built environment of Xinsha Elementary School has a clear sense of openness. In the future, the school can be further opened for community sharing with the management arrangement. In addition to the main entrance leading to the second-floor platform, we also designed the first-floor entrance, which connected to the 6m-wide central corridor in the podium.
It can directly reach the library, canteen, multi-function hall, indoor swimming pool and gymnasium, and will not cross the teaching flow line above, which is convenient for students and the community to share this campus during holidays. Photo:32 Long sections ©11architecture Photo:33 Master plan ©11architecture Photo:34 First floor plan ©11architecture Photo:35 Second floor plan ©11architecture Photo:36 Third floor plan ©11architecture.