overlapped: lianhua primary school

Year: 2020 - 2021
Size: 35,000 m2
Type: educational
Status: schematic design
Location: Shenzhen, Guangdong, China
Client: Shenzhen Futian Educational Bureau

Partners in charge: Chen Chen, Nicola Saladino
Design team: Shoutuo Lyu, Marco Navarro, Yiren Wang, Javier Pelaez, Peng Nie, Ziyao Zhang

General layout and massing strategy

The competition brief for Lianhua Primary School asked to quadruple the size of the existing school, which stands in the middle of Lianhua Sancui neighborhood, surrounded by dense housing slabs. The challenge of expanding the current 9,300 m2 to 35,400 m2 in a site that is less than 10,000 m2 was made even more difficult by the requirement of a 150m running track.

As a starting point we tested different spatial configurations for the running track: A) on the ground, beside the school building; B) on top of a podium, with part of the public program underneath; C) embedded in the volume of the school; D) on the roof. The latter solution gave us better results in terms of balancing the spatial quality of the outdoor spaces with the requirements of fire regulations and obtaining a more efficient internal circulation.

Moving away from the conventional two-dimensional zoning strategy of Chinese schools, we explored the concept of “the overlapped campus”, vertically layering all the different functional zones in a richer and more complex layout that better responds to the extreme density of the site. In this way, no classroom in the school is farther than 2 floors from a large outdoor sports area and during the 10min break between classes students have access to a variety of outdoor spaces that would not fit in conventional school floor plans.

The form-finding process of the overlapped campus followed these steps: 1) occupy the largest site area that fulfills both solar and setback regulations; 2) place the running track on the roof, forming a 14m-deep tulou-like courtyard structure; 3) elevate the building to provide maximum accessibility to the inner courtyard, which becomes an active plaza for open-air activities; 4) sink the courtyard one level to provide more intimacy and noise protection for the neighbors, while the permeable ground floor still grants good conditions of sunlight and ventilation. 5) insert a series of sloped lawns and grades that extend from the sunken garden upwards to activate the whole perimeter of the ground floor.

The more public programs are located on the East side in order to allow for the possibility of sharing facilities with the neighboring community, offering a more open interface with its garden. The library becomes the main façade and its articulated and dynamic volumes render the school as a landmark for the neighborhood.

With a dense massing strategy the entire program fits in only 5 floors above ground, minimizing the vertical circulation, which is always a critical limitation for primary school design. Besides the standard cores that fulfill all the requirements for fire safety, we added a power link: a more sculptural system of stairs, ramps and nets that creates a direct connection between the sky track and the sunken plaza, with a strong visual presence and a series of fun embedded functional elements that help activate the internal courtyard.

Conventional Chinese schools usually lack medium-scale spaces: students are either occupied in individual activities at their desk or involved in large group gatherings such as the flag ceremony or the daily physical exercises. In the overlapped campus we designed a variety of multifunctional spaces of various scales that promote social interaction: balconies, resting areas in the corridors, book corners, informal discussion zones, small playgrounds, etc. Rather than providing only formal sport facilities, as required by regulations, we designed a lot more informal surfaces where kids can engage in all sort of games and appropriate the space following their own agenda.

Design solutions

The design brief asked for a high level of prefabrication in order to make the future construction process as fast as possible and minimize the negative environmental impact on the neighbors. The building structure is organized through a combination of a regular grid of 9x9m with a series of flexible casted bends that allow the rigid prefab modules to adapt to the irregular geometry of the site. Every floor contains 12 standard classrooms that are laid out in pairs, divided by a flexible partition that can be opened or closed based on different teaching scenarios. Between these pairs, a series of informal, semi-outdoor spaces like reading corners and discussion zones are inserted to make the corridors less repetitive and bring more sunlight and ventilation to the courtyard.

The inner façade is designed as a modular furniture system that integrates the vertical shafts for drainage and fire hydrants with functional elements required by the school: exhibition areas for drawings and models, announcement boards, bookshelves, benches, drinking points, etc. In this way the corridor is transformed from a mere functional element for circulation into a more active public space.

Every classroom has its own balcony, which offers perhaps the most intimate spatial experience in the school. Taking care of watering plants and feeding animals is also a way for the children to learn how to face responsibilities and sharing such effort contributes to create a sense of belonging to the community of the class. Outside the balconies a system of thin vertical louvers creates a coherent envelope that responds to both the solar protection from East and West sunlight and the need for more privacy in the South and North facades, filtering the views towards the incumbent neighboring housing slabs.










敏感的场地要求实现高质量快速建造,因而项目对装配化程度要求颇高,而学校建筑类型的功能丰富性使得装配式实施颇具挑战。我们提出 “让标准更标准,让非标更自由”的策略:9m见方的轴网组织了标准层的大部分区域,每层共有18个标准模块,其中的12个以两两成组的方式布置普通教室;而无法被标准化设计的大空间则体现出最大化的自由度和丰富性,成为校园中与众不同、引人注目的空间节点。教室组间布置灵活教室、非正式讨论、图书角等缓冲区域,打破教室连续线性排列的重复感。