Journeys AND destination, not just destinations:
BAU569 Nanjing Youfu West Street Primary School

Jiangning District, Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, China

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Discipline

Architecture, Interior Architecture and Landscape Architecture

Typology

Education

City

Jiangning District, Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, China

Date

2015-2018

Status

Completed in 2018

Client

Nanjing Qinhuai Construction Development Co., Ltd.

Program

36-class 6-year primary school with teaching building, administrative offices, library, multi-function hall, canteen, gym, dormitory, outdoor stadium, etc.

Journeys AND destination, not just destinations:
Youfu Primary School, Shang Qing Huai, Jiaxing, Nanjing

Intro

Situated amongst the dynamic south periphery of Nanjing and close to the new Shang Qing Huai Metro station, the site abuts a small wetland to the north. This primary school will serve an emerging high-density housing district in the area.

(not enough) space and time

Within the usual Urban Planning objectives of maximum density, combined with strict education department design regulations, the opportunity to create an appropriate and responsive architecture is dramatically reduced. School buildings of monotonous repetition in endless arrays of parallel buildings are often the result.
While it is the responsibility of planners to determine appropriate sizes of school sites to meet projected population requirements, it is quite common for these projections to significantly rise during a district’s 10-20 year-long emergence. Without a corresponding increase in land reserved for schools, each school is required to accommodate more classes. Over-development of the site is the outcome. BAU’s first position is to push back against this over densification. When this fails BAU explore ways of to manipulate the program to, in effect, increase the site area. The alternative – changing a province’s education regulations, is a hurdle set to high.
Answering the brief, and adding BAU’s agenda for expanding upon it, has to happen within the usual extraordinarily tight deadlines for all phases of design.

beyond the brief

The project meets all the Jiangsu Province regulations, from sun access to all standard classrooms, to maximizing distances between buildings from noisy programs.
However, this project also goes beyond the brief in many ways. The school is seen as an assemblage of parts following the strict codes, but, these parts are strung together with circulation spaces that go far beyond regulations, providing generous and surprising spaces for play, large and small gatherings, and informal learning in the form of events and exhibitions.

making a larger site

By placing communal facilities at ground level and then covering them with a roof terrace, BAU replaces the site covered by these facilities with a new public space ready to be the new site for the remainder of the programs – in effect increasing the size of the site, by the area of the communal facilities.

learning form commercial strips and arcades

Learning from the linear urban typologies of commercial strips and arcades, the communal parts of the program are located at the ends of two circulation routes, a linear verandah at ground floor, and a linear terrace at second floor. It is interesting to note that these spaces were not included in the brief.
The drop-off area, reception, and the library are located at the street end of these circulation spaces, and the gym and cafeteria are located at the wetlands end– becoming the attractors, between which the remaining school programs are located.

To the west of the verandah and the terrace are the sports grounds, football ground, athletics track and basketball courts. To the east, the remaining programs are strung out between communal programs: from the entry plaza; entry hall and grand stair, with auditorium under and library above; via the three classroom wings and specialty classrooms and teacher’s room; to the canteen on ground and sports hall and gym on upper floor.

The verandah stretches along the buildings, running beneath seating stands, and provides shelter and a place to stay in a playful zigzagging connective space. The terrace and the verandah both connect regularly to a parallel secondary circulation space seen as an arcade.

The terrace becomes the main outdoor circulation space, with links to the second floor internal street and becomes an vantage point from which to view the sportsgrounds, landscape and the amphitheatre-stairs which cascade to the ground level giving students places to spend their breaks, play, or watch the sports and activities.

place-making

articulations and memories
It has been argued that place is space with memoires attached. It has also been argued that without articulation memories can’t be attached. So place is more likely to occur in well articulated space. Consequently, BAU have adopted a number of strategies to ensure meaningful articulation to the program.

The three classroom wings reach out to gain southern aspect. They consist of double-loaded corridors, with academic classrooms to the south and science rooms, bathrooms, stair and services to the north. The ground floor classrooms open to courtyards with a sheltered verandah space. Here the students can gather from rain or seek shade.

The school’s busiest staircases are places within themselves, expressive elements overlooking the courtyards. The courtyards are individualised with varied landscapes and different shades of brick cladding.
Five pavilions project from the long western front of the building. Playful and iconic they break down the scale of this large project, articulate space and enable place-making, and provide programs that ensure the circulation spaces are full of activity.
The library stands on columns above the entry hall, and becomes an icon for the school. A grand stair provides a visual and spatial connection between levels and fills the space with a habitable topography. Beneath the stair the formal theatre is visible but not a barrier to the social activity in the foyer.
At the other end of the linear circulation, the gym, with its saw-tooth also stands on columns, and with a roof profile reflecting the once industrial local skyline, it also becomes an icon for the school.
As a respite from all the school activity, the canteen overlooks the small wetland at the rear of the site. Similarly, the teacher’s dormitories are located in a quiet NE corner of the site, providing the teachers with an escape from the activities of the school.
Finally, vehicular circulation is located away from main entry at the north-west corner of the site. This enables the entire school and sports ground area to be car free and safe for the children.

spirit of place

Meeting the client’s demand for a sense of continuity with Nanjing is achieved via a number of strategies: the use of traditional burnt grey brick cladding; the inclusion of five pavilions scaled to the size of the pre-existing village buildings of the area; and the incorporation of formal references to the recently demolished factories of the district.
Sitting amongst the new generic high-rise apartment projects this sophisticated articulated public school building provides a recognisable core from which a new community can grow.

colour – playful and useful

Colour is utilised to provide identity and orientation to the year levels on each floor. Each floor has a palette of either blues, greens or yellows. The gym and canteen complex utilise red.
Horizontal eaves and arrays of coloured vertical fins to the east and west provide sun protection in one of the hottest cities of the country.

landscape

The landscape develops around the theme of Qi Qiao Ban, the Chinese game of blocks from which figures are composed. A playful infrastructure of pavement lines further provides a framework for infinite games.
An undulating perimeter fence morphs along its length to provide seating and shelter. As with traditional Chinese gardens this enables the site boundaries to become a positive active place. Framed viewing through slot windows enables passers-by a take on the school activity.

small town not a big building

Seeing this primary school as a small town and not as big building, brings firmness commodity and delight to this new learning teaching environment.

2018

Public Landscapes

Education

Education

Nanjing

Private Landscapes

Playgrounds

Suzhou

Infrastructure

Structures & Pavillions

Jiangyin

Retail

2005-2010

Mixed Use

Sports

Shanghai

Yixing

2017

Office

Hangzhou

Public

Taizhou

Office

Culture

Culture

Retail

Melbourne

2016

2000-2005

2011

Urban Landscapes

Residential

Hospitality

Urban Design

Kyneton

Healthcare

Hotel

Hotel

2015

2014

Wuxi

Planning

2013

2012

Fuding

Shaoxing

Chongqing

Kunshan

Wuhan

Healthcare

Cixi

Ningbo

Meishan

Canberra

Jingzhou

Chengdu

Hospitality

1990-2000

Xiamen

Residential

Hopetoun

Caofeidian

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