coded nature: SUAT campus

Year: 2021 - 2024
Size: 560,000 m2
Type: educational
Status: construction documents
Location: Shenzhen, Guangdong, China
Client: Shenzhen Public Works Bureau

Partners in charge: Chen Chen, Shoutuo Lyu, Nicola Saladino
Project architect: Yixiu Zhang
Design team: Javier Pelaez, Marco Navarro, Meikang Li, Zifan Wang, Yiwei Lin, Yiren Wang (competition)
Xinran Zheng, Javier Pelaez, Yu Yang, Siqi Xiao, Marco Navarro, Jinghui Chen, Litian Cheng, Yujia Qian, Ginyong Poon (design development)

Local design institutes: China Academy of Building Research (DD), China North-East (CD)
Landscape design: WADI Engineering and Design

Contemporary universities are undergoing a profound transformation: learning methods and knowledge sharing models are evolving, research institutions and disciplines are renewing, students’ lifestyle and social environments are changing. All these factors raise new opportunities for campus planning and design. Building an innovative campus that will train future industry leaders, in the site where Guangming New City connects to its ecological protection area, in Shenzhen, the core of innovation and pioneering enterprises, is an exciting challenge.

The site is located between a sensitive ecological zone and the upcoming Guangming Tech City. The water runoff is reorganized into a series of ecological creeks that form a resilient flood protection system. They work as the ecological structure of the site, defining the boundaries of 6 compact mixed-use clusters. The original reservoir is renovated, expanding southward to become the central spine of the campus. Thus a new multi-layered water system is designed to mitigate flood risks while providing at the same time a rich palette of spatial experiences and a healthy habitat for the school.

Public facilities such as the International Centre and the Library sit on the West boundary, facing the street. They are resources to be shared with the surrounding neighborhood, forming an active urban interface. The three–in–one teaching clusters are located next to the hill; their podiums are elevated, maximizing ground permeability. The LOOP connects all the clusters of the campus into a holistic complex, creating an integrated school environment.
Around the central lake, a slow traffic network organizes indoor and outdoor leisure programs: water sports, bike and jogging trails, plazas, amphitheaters, etc. Such network connects to the planned city trails in the West and the mountain trails of Guangming Forest Park in the East making the university an open campus without fences.

The architectural design of the three-in-one clusters is based on low-impact-development principles. The podium is elevated so the ecological corridors from the mountain better connect to the lake and the porous massing promotes natural ventilation and lighting. The podium hosts the classrooms and the A-B lab modules, while the vertical towers accommodate the wet labs, with more demanding MEP requirements. A series of interdisciplinary zones, connected by sky bridges, stand in between two vertically adjacent lab modules. These pedestrian friendly clusters are scaled to allow a mix of dorms, labs and classrooms within a 5min walk, forming a holistic and seamless life experience for teachers and students. Modular design allows maximum flexibility to break the boundaries between disciplines and adjust to future educational requirements. It also makes prefab construction easier. The semi-covered waterfront plazas are particularly suitable for Shenzhen sub-tropical climate, creating an important public space for students that can operates 24/7.

The LOOP, elevated at the second floor, connects all the different clusters in the campus. It not only functions as a high speed transportation loop and bicycle path, linked to the subway station in the North, but it is also a spacious and active promenade of culture and technology. Along the loop, multiple labs display engaging information on their research, inspiring teachers and students as they walk across different clusters. This gives rise to a collision of ideas and cross-disciplinary cooperation.

The lakeside library is close to the main entrance of the campus. It is not only the cultural icon of the school, but also an important resource for the whole city. The building emerges from the landscape as a spiraling sequence of ramps filled with books. From A to Z, from humanities to technologies, it forms a complex that accommodates a multitude of programs: learning, exhibition, conference, etc. Its porous volume is covered with a semi-permeable skin that adapts to the local sub-tropical climate; as if floating on water, it looks dynamic and mysterious.

SUAT takes innovative scientific research as its mission. Facing the social and climatic challenges of the 21st century, the campus itself is a test bed for new eco-friendly living models. Each cluster is a different prototype of urbanization in symbiosis with nature. The interaction between nature, technology and architecture gives unique spatial identities, forming a sense of belonging for different learning communities, providing students with direct experience and inspiration, cultivating forward-looking young leaders that will shape the future of our cities.