Collaborating with Tongji Architecture Design & research Institute , Atelier XÜK has won a design competition for a renovation project of a historical elementary school in Wuxi. Additional images of XÜK’s winning design after the jump.
Wuxi teacher`s college has more than 100 years of history and is located at the city center. Due to the increasing number of enrolled students it has decided to move to a new site with bigger campus area on the outskirt of Wuxi, and leaves the historical site to its affiliated elementary school. The elementary school will take it as an opportunity and grow to a school with the capacity of 36 classes and well developed facilities, including an indoor basketball field and an auditorium with 300 students capacity. The key issue of the design is how to adopt new program to this historical site while keeping the original atmosphere intact. After receiving the commission, we did a thorough analysis of the site and decided to divide the site into two parts.
The northern part will be the historical part of the site. The old Chinese garden together with its enclosure, including the old bell tower, the old science hall, and 4 story-high teaching building from the 80`s, will be kept and renovated to the administration offices for the school. The southern part will be largely modified due to the amount of the program needed to be inserted. However, we still keep the original sport field and a row of 4 stories high historical trees along the running tracks of the field. This two elements constraint but also inspire us later during the architecture design process. In-between the two parts, we place the new entrance for the school, a scenic boulevard. We then carefully insert the auditorium to the entrance of the boulevard, like fitting into the last piece of jigsaw puzzle. The space is then divided into two inter-connected squares. the wide one as the entrance square of the school, is defined by the main hall of the auditorium and the new teaching building; while the narrow one as the main axis of the school, is defined by the glass entrance hall of the auditorium and the bell tower.
The campus has another sub ordinary entrance on the east side of the site, it serves as the logistic entrance for the student canteen and also the main entrance for cars. Underground parking is located right under the canteen, providing easy access from out of the site. On the southern part, all the newly implemented program, including general classrooms, student labs, canteens and indoor basketball field, are all skewed by a 4 story-high public corridor, which is located right next to the preserved trees, over-viewing the sport field. We mimic the geometry of trunks and give the supporting structure of the corridor a zigzag profile, which also stretches the corridor space to the outside in plan and encourages inter-action between architecture and its context.
The overall volume of the building is covered by a repetitive module of pitched roof. The roof not only functionally provides protected space for the classrooms and the main corridor, but aesthetically integrates architectural volumes and spaces into one entity as well. The school plans to use independent air-conditioning units for every classroom. We then decide to turn the facade of each classroom by 12 degree, which gives a little balcony on one side to place external unit of air-conditioner. This maneuver also gives a extra thickness to the external wall and window. On the northern part of the site, we introduces a metal net to the south facade of the existing teaching building. It will soon be covered with vine and become a gigantic green screen, which will provide the site a clean backdrop and decrease the pressure from the office building to the north of the campus.