Chief Architects: Jianxiang He, Ying Jiang
Project Architects: Jingyu Dong, Xiaolin Chen
Design Team: Yifei Wu, Wanyi Zhang, Yue Wang, Chengqiang Huang, Wei Zeng, Lehuan Cai, Weisen Peng, Zhenzhong He
Site Architect: Xiaolin Chen
Construction Project Management: Shenzhen Vanke Real Estate Co., Ltd. – Siyi Zhao, Xin Huang, Chuan Wang(Site Project Management)
Structural Consultant: RBS Architectural Engineering Design Associates
Structural & M E Design: CMAD Design Group
Building Facades Design: Neuco Building Facades Technology Co., Ltd.
Landscape Design: TOP DESIGN
Vi Design: TheWhy art x design
Lighting Design: Shenzhen Guangyi Lighting Planning and Design Co., Ltd.
Structural Overrun Consultant: Shenzhen QianDian construction and Engineering Design Consulting Co., Ltd.
Client: Bureau Public Works of Shenzhen Municipality
High speed and high density have become synonymous with Shenzhen, the southern Chinese city in the sub-tropical coast area. The population and urban density of this hyper-city along the eastern side of the Pearl River Estuary is still booming, even after 40 years of rapid development. Living and working in super high-rises has become the daily life of the city. Leisure and even education have also been brought into the sky.
The building site of Hongling Experimental Primary School (HEPS) and its surrounding cities was originally a hill named Antuoshan in the north-west part of Futian District. This hill is widely known in the city because it had provided a huge quantity of granite earthwork for urban reclamation. As a result, the hill almost disappears, except a small lonely part standing to the west of the school site. The rest of the terrain was levelled into urban development land after the gradual withdraw of the quarrying operation.
The site of HEPS, originally planned for a 24-class school, is about 100 by 100 meters. Its current capacity has increased to 36 classes due to the huge pressure from the lack of school places, with a total floor area doubled of the original planning. The building ratio is over 3. Besides, giving way to the subway line at the southeast corner, the retreat from the road on all sides, and the building code of the sunshine spacing (although often questioned in the south of the country, but it is still a mandatory requirement), the architectural design has to confront many challenges form the space.
Organism of the vertical
Therefore, design strategy on the vertical orientation becomes crucial. School buildings over 24 meters (the division number between low-rise and high-rise buildings) have been widely applied in Shenzhen’s primary schools, but the side-effect is the obstruction of the students’ interaction caused by overmany vertical traffic and the compulsory closed fire staircases. In the scheme of the HEPS, the architect make effort to control the building height of within 24 meters, to encourage horizontal interactions and tries to respond to the physical and psychological characteristics of children in the architectural/landscape spatial design.
The school building, divided into two halves with different heights on the east and west, almost fully covers the land that can be constructed in the site. The general plan is an inter-linking mirrored E-shapes. The West Half uses the obligatory spacing between classroom rows to create a “valley” courtyard with two curved boundaries. The courtyards sink to the underground level, combining with the greenery slope garden obtained from the retreating distance site boundary, strives for the underground cultural/sport facilities and canteen space fully illuminated and naturally ventilated.
The sinking courtyard is connected to the overhead and naturally undulating ground floor through a gentle slope in the south courtyard and an open-air stepping theater in the north courtyard, all together becoming a children’s landform park. The 200-meter circular runway and sports ground are placed on the 3rd floor of the Eastern Half, linked to the 2nd level of the main teaching building on the west side, which offers convenience for students on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th floors to run to the sports area.
Underneath of the stadium is a 300-seat auditorium, hanging above the semi-outdoor swimming pool in the landform park. The fourth and fifth floors of the West Half are the extracurricular classrooms and the teacher's office, while the roof is the school's horticultural farm.
The learning unit, traditionally the classroom, is the basic spatial cell for primary school students to learn and communicate. The architect conceived separated pairs of drum-shaped learning units on the horizontal E-shaped floor plan, for the subtropical climate in which Shenzhen is located, to avoid blocking fluent ventilation on the facade. Every 12 classrooms are divided into 3 rows and arranged in 6 pairs. Each unit-pair combination can be flexible in opening to join the two units, and closing to separate the two, by the moveable division wall in-between two units.
The drum-shaped plan shows greater flexibility and freedom when compared to the traditional rectangular classrooms. It is also more conducive to a variety of learning and teaching patterns. The rhythmic folding curve outline of the learning units and the curve edge of the courtyard form the linear activity space to shape a dynamic semi-outdoor venue for the children.
The architect maintains and uses the height different between the north and south of the site, to make 1-meter slopes to connect between the three rows of learning units on each floor and create also the landform experience on the E-shaped floor plate. In the end, two steel stepped garden bridges hung in the middle of the two “Valley” courtyards, connecting the different floors of the courtyard, are adding unique viewing and gaming experiences over the “Valley”.
“Valley” courtyards, dynamic horizontal slabs, loose cellular fabric, and the implanted organic greening systems are the design strategies to response to high-density urban condition and the subtropical southern climates. Furthermore, through the process and results of the HEPS, the architect aims at a new spatial productive paradigm for designing of public facilities in high-density Shenzhen.