gooood would dig into projects which are appropriate for deeper report, in order to present the project in a more comprehensive way.
This time, gooood interviewed the founders and principles of OPEN Architecture , Crossboundaries and LYCS Architecture, who all have extensive experiences in the practice of educational architecture, to talk about their completed projects, the challenges they have encountered and their opinions on ideal educational buildings. We hope this conversation will lead to more reflections on the status quo and the development process of educational architecture in China.
出品人：向玲 | Producer: Xiang Ling
编辑：武晨曦，刘丹阳，陈诺嘉，徐馨羽 | Editors: Wu Chenxi, Liu Danyang, Chen Nuojia, Xu Xinyu
(Please scroll down to see the English text)
第一层面：我首要考虑的就是：环境育人，“We shape our buildings, thereafter they shape us. ”——丘吉尔对于建筑空间对于人类教育的定义，建筑不单是一个遮蔽物，功能性场所，更多是她本身，建筑本身可以成为教育主体，这也是我对教育建筑的理解。因为这个原因，我在实践教育建筑中，考虑最为核心的，都是围绕使用者，对于周遭建筑空间的理解与影响，所以挑战也是围绕着这些思考发生的。Crossboundaries坚持为培养“自由”，“文明”的人设计建造空间。
1.What are the challenges that you usually encounter in the practice of educational architecture design and how do you solve them?
Crossboundaries：Firstly, a main consideration should be how we can use our environment to educate people. “We shape our buildings, thereafter they shape us.”- that is how Churchill defined the educational influence of architectural space on humans. The building should not just be a shelter or a functional place. Architecture itself can become the subject of education, which is what I see as a core value of educational architecture. Therefore, when designing educational spaces, we always put “users” and the way they receive and react to spatial qualities at the highest in our considerations. There will always be challenges, indeed. The way we design architecture reflects the way we understand the world. From past to present, throughout western and eastern world, architects continue to articulate their propositions and opinions by implementing certain values into their design. Crossboundaries’ design reflects what we believe education should offer to our future citizens: a profound understanding of “freedom” and “civilization”. Secondly, the challenges are about how to achieve all these ambitious goals through technical and professional skills.
Our solutions: for me, the first step is to make the right choices, often with a hint of luck, when recognizing clients who share the same values and believes with us. Once a perfect match is established at a broader level, all the remaining issues are rather technical, which could be solved within our professional scope.
LYCS Architecture: One of the challenges is that with the further concentration of urban resources, the density of a large number of Chinese cities continues to increase, which has further increased the density of primary and secondary schools and the number of teachers and students.As a result, the problems of insufficient land use and limited space for activities in campus planning continue to stand out. At the same time, the intensiveness caused by high density has also largely limited the design of primary and secondary schools in terms of spatial scale, streamlines, behavior patterns, etc. But high density is not the root cause of the above problems. In fact, it is a rendered result. The core problem is the structure organization which determines the space organization: the inherent hierarchical system of school education management makes the campus design often start from the top-down thinking mode of managers, and pursues effective management and management security. The system level forms a planning level, and a series of design methods such as axis, dynamic and static division, teaching movement and living area planning are all responses to this design thinking mode. However, this starting point just ignores the behavior and space requirements of the students who are most practical users.
Therefore, in the process of design practice, we constantly research on the design methodologies of primary and secondary schools in high-density urban environment. From the perspective of user’s behavior needs, summarize three strategies: 1) “small scale” at planning level, “pro-user” at the architectural elements level 3) “loop connections” at the architecture level.
2. What is an ideal educational architecture in your opinion?
Crossboundaries：What I believe to be the ideal educational architecture model had been defined by Mr. John Dewey 100 years ago. Dewey criticized traditional pedagogy of one-way injection of knowledge and repetitive training; what he proposed was to learn from hands-on practice. “Education is not preparation for Life; education is life itself”.
I remember the first time I heard about Dewey and his ideas was back in my grad school seminar in Pratt Institute: my professor and my lifetime mentor Mr. Jack Travis, fellow of AIA (American Institute of Architects), referred to Dewey’s quote “Education is not preparation for Life; education is life itself” during a seminar discussion. Jack and his seminar had great impact on me. Upon his inspiration, I went to the library and checked out several books by Dewey. The whole semester I was fascinated by Dewey’s believes. It was during the early years of my U.S. experience. The tremendous cultural difference between east and west also shocked me.
If I were to imagine freely: an ideal place for education should be a place without fence or other means of boundaries in terms of security consideration. School and the society are not to be separated. When people enter the school, students and teachers would voluntarily gather around or be introspective. Learning scenes could happen anywhere.
LYCS Architecture: We believe that the ideal educational architecture should be truly user-oriented. While effectively ensuring the teaching needs, children can use the building space to form better interaction and growth, that is, It ’s a space that makes children happy. The space considers the different behaviors and individual needs of students at different ages and scales, which stimulates students’ exploration spirit and curiosity.While fully satisfying and not limited to the teaching function, the educational building achieves the highest degree of individual independence and freedom. It emphasizes respect for the natural development of children’s psychology, physiology and society, and gains different learning experiences. Finally, individuals are allowed to build their own mentality in the interaction with the environment and the community, and gradually develop their personal consciousness and sense of responsibility.
3. Please share us an educational architecture project that you believe to be most satisfying, and why?
Crossboundaries：The best is always yet to come. In fact, in all the projects we have done so far, we managed to achieve the two goals I mentioned in answering the first question: the ideal level and the technical/professional level. And the specifics differ for each project, depending on the context, client needs, etc. It is really difficult to choose one to be the best.
I would say, Jiangsu Beisha kindergarten would be an impressive one that fulfilled Mr. Dewey’s imagination for an ideal education model. Beisha kindergarten is free from physical or psychological boundaries. With the rapid development of China’s economy in the last two decades, Beisha, like many other China’s suburb areas, is facing social problems such as: deterioration of rural societies, migrate workers leaving the elderly and the children behind, dissatisfaction of rural kindergarten faculties with the existing environment, and so on. When I first visited the site in the vast plain of Jiangsu suburb, I was quite touched by the complex situation. And I realized, a kindergarten is not merely a building, but a representation that calls for attention to children. A second home in their homeland. Our design for Beisha consists of a cluster of village-like building blocks, surrounded by playful outdoor playgrounds. The building masses are individual, yet connected. As we strongly suggested, this kindergarten has no physical fence. It blends in perfectly into the surrounding nature. Since its completion in 2018, this kindergarten is not only a playground for children but also a social place for residents in the village. Parents or grandparents gathered here while picking up their children and communicating. It is my dream educational architecture come true.’
Beijing Chaoyang Future School also has many special values to me. After the school commissioned Crossboundaries to renovate its teaching space, gymnasium and art center in 2016, they requested us again to renovate the landscape of the core area of this old campus. Although a renovation project, we had a chance to completely reassess the landscape, façade and interior, even the signage design of the campus as a whole.
Crossboundaries and the school shared a common believe of “education happens everywhere”. Learning doesn’t just happen in the classroom but throughout the campus, exponentially raising the value of this tight urban area. Formulating a crossover of the in and out and the public and private, the school creates a village that delivers to individual needs, catering to both students and teachers where they will eat, sleep, play, study, learn, and explore. The interior of each building is given freedom to breathe. Previously confined spaces are opened up with new connections that allow for activities and subjects to crossover. Architectural interventions open floors and walls to expand volumes and give way to new opportunities for creativity and inspiration. Crossboundaries’ design was really successful in offering a holistic experience to all users of the school.
Aside from the technical interventions, what really touches me is the school’s true free spirit when it comes to building a close connection between the school and the society. When designing the curriculum, the school did not hesitate to invite prestigious professionals in various disciplines from society, to offer the students sources of knowledge and experience from real life. It breaks the boundary between the school and the real world in intellectual and psychological levels, which is very progressive in today’s education.
Chaoyang Future School is an excellent example of a student-centered education model. When both the educator and the designer share the same believe of Mr. Dewey’s “Education is not preparation for Life; education is life itself”, the ideal architecture almost happens naturally during the process of realization.
LYCS Architecture: In the Hangzhou Haishu School of Future Sci-Tech City, there are 15 double-slope roofs in 15 small-volume units, creating 15 types of space under the roof and adding 15 extra-curricular playgrounds: such as hide-and-seek cats, plantations, theater, reading room, runway, stargazing room, gazebo and so on. These roofs are connected to the lower corridor by stairs to form a roof field system. Under the roof, student activities are not affected by the weather. The rich elevation of the profile brings the expansion of the activity method. While the difference between the plane partition and the enclosing method brings plane fluidity: these are divided into small scales to increase spatial diversity and allow students to discover their own usage methods.
Lively students can use a flat land as a playground and play hide and seek in a small space. Although modern schools have outdoor playgrounds, the neat fields often give students a sense of distance because of the large scale. A single state of space is also lacking to stimulate student curiosity.We found that in addition to meeting the building’s basic shielding, resistance to gravity, and envelope shape, if the roof surface of the building is considered as a space, the upper space of the roof can accommodate landscape greening and sports venues, while the lower space can accommodate activities.The practice of connecting the roof to students’ behaviors adds a “floor”, a space that provides students with personalized activities. For a general four-story teaching building, the area of the event space was increased by 25% without increasing the number of floors and building density, allowing the movement to expand on the section.