by Zohra KhanNov 24, 2020
A primary school in the newly established Pingshan district of Shenzhen had quite a journey: the educational campus comprising 36 classrooms and dorm facilities was erected using prefab architecture in a span of 13 months by Beijing-based Crossboundaries studio. Tasked with a relatively small site and a brief to create a range of facilities, the modular construction allowed accelerated architecture in which four months went in conceptualisation and the remaining on onsite construction.
Located along the Jinlong Boulevard and surrounding an industrial setting with a river and rolling hills in the background, the school embraces its context. A racing track sits between a towering dorm building and three teaching quarters on the site. Over 75 per cent of the school campus is designed using modular blocks fabricated from a local prefab elements factory.
The project was designed in response to the shortage of school campuses in the city; as per facts the fast-developing Shenzhen has only 344 primary schools compared to another mega city of similar scale such as Guangzhou, which has 961 primary schools. Seeing the rising population in Pingshan – a residential district in Shenzhen – the government ordered development of several prefab projects, including the construction of Jinlong School within a little more than one year.
"Looking at the briefing, there appeared to be so many limitations: limited time, a limited budget, a potentially limited creativity due to the mandatory use of prefab, a very small site area, with all those functions to integrate,” says Hao Dong, Founding Partner of Crossboundaries.
“Then again, we were extremely intrigued to take on this project, to create a human, people-oriented school within all those limitations, and at the same time to still be as creative as possible," he adds.
Using modular elements, the architects employed an interesting matrix of façade system. Vertical and horizontal rectangular windows in prefab panels give an alternating rhythm to the façade of the teaching quarters. Adding much vigour to this geometric composition is a series of added accents: yellow coloured metal frames that protrude off the façade and mark selected window openings. The arrangement of these openings is such that though the classrooms on each floor share the same layout, each of them has a different external wall.
“Using predominantly prefab doesn't necessarily mean having to be dull, " says Binke Lenhardt, Partner and Co-Founder, Crossboundaries, while adding that the firm “saw the potential to create a subtle, but rhythmic rise and fall of elements, to work against the otherwise totally flat façade surface of the dormitory building”. ”
While prefab components are applied in the learning and residential blocks, the recreational spaces are configured using conventional techniques.
Contrary to most schools where sports field are pushed to the peripheral areas, the Jinlong School has an elevated running track in the middle of the campus. Slotted beneath it are common programmes such as an arts centre, a library, and indoor sports activity rooms.
“The lower level becomes the cross-connection for the campus, a public corridor that runs through the whole length of the site, linking the educational and residential quarters, while on the site's wide stretch bringing together the entrance zone on one side with the adjacent future neighborhood on the other,” explains the Beijing-based studio.
The positioning of the three teaching quarters in a diagonal layout leaves polygon-shaped open yards in between them as playing area for children. Elevated walkways connect these buildings with one another and also with the adjoining sports field, allowing a seamless circulation between indoor-outdoor spaces.
Under a limited budget and a challenging timeline, Crossboundaries studio created an architecture that is though repetitive in its nature of construction, but with a clever approach imbibes a certain surprise and character to it.