Architect: The Kubala Washatko Architects, Inc.
Contractors: China Railway Airport Construction Group Co., Ltd.and Huadu International Construction Group
Considered one of the top academic schools in China, ZhongGuanCun Elementary School operates three campuses enrolling more than 8500 students. To serve the District's expanding population base, the ZhongGuanCun Elementary School No. 3 was envisioned as the third and newest campus, serving over 2400 students. In selecting the Wisconsin-based architectural team through an international design competition ZhongGuanCun School representatives sought to create an entirely new educational environment, an approach that balances traditional teacher-directed, whole-group instruction with flexible, learner-centered work and study spaces.
The ZhongGuanCun area is located within the Haidian District of northwestern Beijing, China, a rapidly redeveloping former industrial sector home to a dense mix of urban mid-rise residential and office buildings. Frequently referred to as China's "Silicon Valley", the Beijing offices of many of the world's best-known software and computer technology companies are located within the ZhongGuanCun electronics district. The ZhongGuanCun area is also home to the Chinese Academy of Sciences and many of the country's most important higher education institutions, including Peking University, Tsinghua University, and others.
Inspired by ancient Chinese Hakka walled village houses, the school design features a semi-enclosed building wrapped around a central courtyard/athletic complex on a six-acre site. This unique building geometry creates multi-level indoor-outdoor classroom and learning spaces while helping to orient students and other occupants throughout the building. A central courtyard, used daily for ceremonial gathering and athletic activities, forms the cultural and emotional core of campus. Approximately 40,000 square meters (430,000 square feet) in size, the building design includes four levels of classroom, administrative, performance and related educational spaces, plus two underground levels reserved for parking and a multi-purpose gymnasium/athletic complex.
An innovative "School within a School" design divides the building into smaller "neighborhoods" to give a greater sense of identity and pride of ownership among students, faculty, parents, and the community. This organization allows self-contained, age-appropriate learning, yet fosters interaction among all age levels. Learning Pods and studios help teachers develop student critical thinking and problem-solving skills, communication skills, self-directed skills, as well as the use of modern technology.
Bioclimatic design strategies specific to the Beijing region promote energy and water efficiency, improve indoor air quality, provide abundant natural daylight, and create spaces for growing food and plants. The semi-circular building shape is oriented to create a positive microclimate within the inner courtyard by protecting against prevailing winter winds and late afternoon summer sun. The overall building axis is oriented to the morning and southern sun. A highly insulated building shell increases energy efficiency. Building shape, overhangs, and glazing were all designed to provide outstanding natural daylight. Use of green roofs and rain gardens help retain storm water on site. Outdoor terraces connected to classrooms on each level help manage stormwater and provide planting areas for students to learn about plant growth and food production.
Photos: Bridge Three