luohu future school
Schools are places where innovation and creativity blossom – but are rarely built that way. When considering a project where school children spend their formative years learning, thinking, and engaging with one another, we didn’t want to build another rote schoolhouse, we wanted to build a school that inspired the imaginations within it.
With 27, 000 square meters to work with, the Luohu Future School envisages a schoolhouse for the future – generations and ideas to come.
In future schools, the teaching area is not limited by the four walls of a traditional classroom. We imagined a space where learning happens on a beautiful natural site, protected and supported by clever design. Here, an extended learning space connecting interior and exterior areas are accessible spots where the children interact with each other in a structured environment, and double as a kind of playground, directly connecting them to nature.
Sunken courtyards within the podium bring in natural light, and connections to the green forestry and its endless outdoor activities abound. We extended a path to the neighboring residential compound, ensuring the school was knitted in to the broader community.
Public areas are at the core of the building – not simply to move people from one space to another, but where travelers are invited to linger, and learn. These spaces emphasize the interaction between students, and support the sharing of knowledge and community. And just as crucial, make it all fun.
Our main interest was in breaking down the scale of the building to offer a more unique design identity for each age group (the school accommodates three separate student age groups). Tucked into dense naturally hilly landscape on the outskirts of Shenzhen, our first instinct was to explore ways of harnessing all that landscape into the design of the school site and the teaching buildings. We imagined space for personal development within one’s own age demographic, as well as an integration and community with the other age groups.
The school is built around a hill, from which a platform extends, and atop lies the age based ‘teaching houses’; the actual classrooms are divided into three buildings based on the ages of students. An independent courtyard paired with each building acts as the extension of the classroom, offering common space for communication and interaction between children. This two-story podium offers classrooms based on subjects; the top tier reserved for the arts and music education, and the bottom for science.
Making three individual human scale buildings required intelligent re-organizing of the square footage that connects the different rooms and designated activities. So we decided to allow the school and the mountain to become one. Using the natural height difference as a two-story base took care of much of the space.
The canteen and teaching rooms are shared by all age groups within this base, and it also serves as a kind of periphery so that children are able to roam freely and safely throughout the campus. The school relies on – and blends with – its environment successfully, conveniently, and to our great pleasure, aesthetically.
It’s impossible to think of the future without considering sustainability. Joint use of facilities with the local community, such as a swimming pool, are one easy way this building minimizes its footprint and opens its doors. Another commitment is to local materials – sourcing from within short distance of the site ensures a low impact design.
Mountain facing with open and perforated façades, nature and knowledge connect with ease and beauty. A system of cut out vertical courtyards allow each building a different interior identity and offer specific public spaces that look into the forested mountain. The base of the school houses outdoor play areas, sports fields and a full running track on top, without compromising the flow to the teaching buildings. Penetrating light wells, slopes and big staircases let the above landscape gently flow down while at the same time the base functions as an internal street.
Luohu Future School encourages feedback between teacher and student, values open communication, and highlights an active listening and practice method. It was AIM’s mission that the architecture models this, as the building listens to its environment, and both place and purpose work together to achieve a dynamic – light and enlightened, flowing and rooted – space for humans to grow in and use for years to come.
Client: China Resources Land
Location: Shenzhen, China
Size: 27 000 sqm
GFA: 37 000 sqm
Design Scope: Master planning & Architecture
Design Principals: Wendy Saunders, Vincent de Graaf
Project Architect: Javier Paz Taibo
Project Management: Lisa Ngan
Design Team: Isabel Qin, Shirley Woo, Sophia Wang, Vincent Zhou