Beijing-based People’s Architecture Office (PAO) has reorganised and extended Fuqiang Elementary School to expand the range of facilities and create more outdoor teaching spaces.
The design, called Learning Terraces, incorporates cantilevered classrooms, rooftop gardens and deep window nooks that can become spaces for conversation and study.
“To inspire curiosity and passion for exploration, the school is designed around the idea of hybrid space,” said PAO. “Space takes on the role of the ‘third teacher’ and functions as an integral part of student’s education.”
Fuqiang school previously had a more linear organisation that extended around the south and east sides of the plot, with few opportunities for cross-disciplinary interaction.
In the redesign, the old gymnasium was removed. The rest of the building was extended to create a figure-of-eight layout, making it easier for occupants to move between different classroom zones.
Additional blocks extend outwards from the main campus, containing learning spaces that include music rooms, a maker space, art studios and a broadcasting suite.
A running track is now located at the front of the site, while a range of other facilities can be found below ground, including a gym, a swimming pool, a sports hall and a multi-purpose theatre.
“The new campus doubles the size of the original campus, and makes high quality education and innovative learning accessible to more students,” said PAO.
“The design brings together the old school buildings, a dedicated STEAM education building, and new classrooms and facilities into an integrated whole.”
A key aspect of the design is the relationship between indoor and outdoor spaces.
The planted roof terraces incorporate a mini farm, a fitness area and an activity garden. Other key spaces include large courtyards and an amphitheatre-style seating area overlooking the running track.
The bold use of blue tones aims to give these spaces a unique character.
This colour is reflected in the building’s facades and particularly in the large window nooks.
Together with a series of new external staircases, these window nooks help to bring life and activity to the building’s facade.
“Wide circulation areas and steps that double as seating are informal spaces that can accommodate different activities and programme,” added PAO.
“Small seating areas are also integrated into the facade to offer students intimate space when they require a moment of quiet.
PAO often adopts an experimental approach to architecture. Past projects include The People’s Station, a cultural centre with detachable modules, and Plugin, a modular housing system designed for Beijing’s hutongs.
Fuqiang Elementary School is one of several large-scale education projects that the office has been developing. The studio, which is led by He Zhe, James Shen and Zang Feng, hopes to show how well-designed learning environments can play a role in cultivating creative talent and innovation.
“Fuqiang school’s excellent educational heritage remains as the campus is upgraded to meet the demands of the next generation,” it added.
The photography is by Zhu Yumeng unless otherwise indicated.
Client: Shenzhen Fuqiang Elementary School
Architecture and landscape design: People’s Architecture Office (PAO)
PAO team: He Zhe, James Shen, Zang Feng, Li Zhenghua, Tang Yanni, Xu Jialing, Kong Ming, Gao Pengfei, Zhang Xian, Zhu Zhonghui, Cai Yuhan, Zhang Chi, Yang Yuting, Wang Yibo, Tan Tan, Gu Naiquan, Xia Xin, Liu Ruochen, Li Qiuwan
Construction unit: Shenzhen Institute of Building Research (IBR)
IBR team: Wang Xiangyun, Huang Jinlong, Zhang Daquan, Hao Qidong, Zhang Jin, Wei Houwen, Lin Wensheng
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