Foster + Partners has designed a 55,000 square-metre campus for China Resources University in Xiao Jing Wan, Shenzhen. Situated astride a hill, with exceptional views towards the South China Sea, the management training institute accommodates 500 students.
Five teaching buildings and the innovation centre flank the central boulevard at the crest of the hill, which terminates with the main auditorium building, containing the main lecture theatre for 580 people and meeting rooms. The library, auditoria, students’ bar, gym and residences step down the side, linked by lush landscaping and maintaining sea views. The buildings are arranged with a strong horizontal emphasis using the same restrained palette of materials in their construction, consisting of fair-faced concrete exposed internally and externally, bronze coloured cladding and specially developed clay brick.
This area of Shenzhen has a history of brick masonry buildings, and the design of the university buildings follow in this tradition with a contemporary interpretation of the conventional building block. More than half a metre long, the specially designed brick is made from locally available earth with a high clay content. The entire manufacturing process was carried out at a neighbouring factory, where the machine-made bricks were given a rough texture by hand-pressing coarse stones against them before firing. The bricks were baked at varying temperatures between 1250 and 1290 degrees Celsius to obtain slight variations in colour shades, matching the different tones of earth found in the surrounding area.
Each brick – 60 millimetres deep and 42 millimetre high – was overlaid with an 8 millimetre layer of coloured mortar – the shade of which was carefully selected to exude warmth and complement the colour of the fair-faced concrete structure. The result is a precise, well-engineered complex of buildings that derive their character from the basic building block – the brick.