High speed and high density have become synonymous with Shenzhen, the southern Chinese city in the sub-tropical coast area. The population and urban density of this hyper-city along the eastern side of the Pearl River Estuary is still booming, even after 40 years of rapid development. Living and working in super high-rises has become the daily life of the city. Leisure and even education have also been brought into the sky.
▼安托山遗存的山包和小学新校园概念，The remaining granite hill and the conception of the new school building
▼亚热带气候下的高密度策略，The spatial trategy in response to the subtropical climate
The building site of Hongling Experimental Primary School (HEPS) and its surrounding cities was originally a hill named Antuoshan in the north-west part of Futian District. This hill is widely known in the city because it had provided a huge quantity of granite earthwork for urban reclamation. As a result, the hill almost disappears, except a small lonely part standing to the west of the school site. The rest of the terrain was levelled into urban development land after the gradual withdraw of the quarrying operation. The site of HEPS, originally planned for a 24-class school, is about 100 by 100 meters. Its current capacity has increased to 36 classes due to the huge pressure from the lack of school places, with a total floor area doubled of the original planning. The building ratio is over 3. Besides, giving way to the subway line at the southeast corner, the retreat from the road on all sides, and the building code of the sunshine spacing (although often questioned in the south of the country, but it is still a mandatory requirement), the architectural design has to confront many challenges form the space.
Therefore, design strategy on the vertical orientation becomes crucial. School buildings over 24 meters (the division number between low-rise and high-rise buildings) have been widely applied in Shenzhen’s primary schools, but the side-effect is the obstruction of the students’ interaction caused by overmany vertical traffic and the compulsory closed fire staircases. In the scheme of the HEPS, the architect make effort to control the building height of within 24 meters, to encourage horizontal interactions and tries to respond to the physical and psychological characteristics of children in the architectural/landscape spatial design.
▼E形教学楼层， The 6 pairs of learning units on the E-shape floor plate
▼地景公园之上的山谷庭院， Valley courtyards above the landform park
The school building, divided into two halves with different heights on the east and west, almost fully covers the land that can be constructed in the site. The general plan is an inter-linking mirrored E-shapes. The West Half uses the obligatory spacing between classroom rows to create a “valley” courtyard with two curved boundaries. The courtyards sink to the underground level, combining with the greenery slope garden obtained from the retreating distance site boundary, strives for the underground cultural/sport facilities and canteen space fully illuminated and naturally ventilated.
▼首层开放地景公园， Axonometric of the ground landform park
The sinking courtyard is connected to the overhead and naturally undulating ground floor through a gentle slope in the south courtyard and an open-air stepping theater in the north courtyard, all together becoming a children’s landform park. The 200-meter circular runway and sports ground are placed on the 3rd floor of the Eastern Half, linked to the 2nd level of the main teaching building on the west side, which offers convenience for students on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th floors to run to the sports area. Underneath of the stadium is a 300-seat auditorium, hanging above the semi-outdoor swimming pool in the landform park. The fourth and fifth floors of the West Half are the extracurricular classrooms and the teacher’s office, while the roof is the school’s horticultural farm.
▼成对的鼓形学习单元为互动式混合式教学提供多种可能性， The pair drum-shape learning unit offering a high flexibility in interactive learning process
The learning unit, traditionally the classroom, is the basic spatial cell for primary school students to learn and communicate. The architect conceived separated pairs of drum-shaped learning units on the horizontal E-shaped floor plan, for the subtropical climate in which Shenzhen is located, to avoid blocking fluent ventilation on the facade. Every 12 classrooms are divided into 3 rows and arranged in 6 pairs. Each unit-pair combination can be flexible in opening to join the two units, and closing to separate the two, by the moveable division wall in-between two units. The drum-shaped plan shows greater flexibility and freedom when compared to the traditional rectangular classrooms. It is also more conducive to a variety of learning and teaching patterns. The rhythmic folding curve outline of the learning units and the curve edge of the courtyard form the linear activity space to shape a dynamic semi-outdoor venue for the children. The architect maintains and uses the height different between the north and south of the site, to make 1-meter slopes to connect between the three rows of learning units on each floor and create also the landform experience on the E-shaped floor plate. In the end, two steel stepped garden bridges hung in the middle of the two “Valley” courtyards, connecting the different floors of the courtyard, are adding unique viewing and gaming experiences over the “Valley”.
“Valley” courtyards, dynamic horizontal slabs, loose cellular fabric, and the implanted organic greening systems are the design strategies to response to high-density urban condition and the subtropical southern climates. Furthermore, through the process and results of the HEPS, the architect aims at a new spatial productive paradigm for designing of public facilities in high-density Shenzhen.