Nanjing Hexi Primary School No. 4 is located in the core area of Hexi New Town in Jianye District, the second largest CBD area in Eastern China after Shanghai’s Lujiazui. The school is about 1.5 Km away from the completed Olympic Sports Center and Nanjing International Expo Center and serves a recently built large high-rise housing area.
The recent 2014 Nanjing Youth Olympics helped establish Nanjing’s reputation, both nationally and internationally, as a city dedicated to supporting the physical and mental fitness of China’s young athletes. Following the city’s offer of sports and activities for the youngsters, MUDI integrates education and physical health in a sustainable campus design that combines local building practices with German architectural quality.
The site constraints and the strict local regulations were the first challenge to overcome. The building is entirely shaped by a rigorously rational approach based on the several stacking constraints. Accounting for offsets from primary and secondary roads, a future metro line, and an adjacent gas station protection area, the leftover footprint for classroom program is only 40% of the total site area.
According to the local code, all the regular classrooms must be oriented to the South and located as far away as possible from the playground at a 25 m minimum distance from other teaching units. Unlike conventional school buildings in China where the teaching units and public functions are usually detached, in Hexi Primary School the overall school complex is gathered in one compact volume, result of the extrusion of the remaining available area. Despite the compactness of the building, the regulations are fulfilled without compromising the classrooms’ requirements.
Two large courtyards puncture the volume and separate the three main diagonal teaching blocks, providing sunlight, natural ventilation and generous outdoor space for kids’ activities. The circulation is organized along the shaded perimetral hallways that link all the regular classrooms with the laboratories and offer a generous semi-outdoor space where the pupils can play and mingle. Special classrooms and laboratories are distributed according to their required daylight along the building’s perimeter. The ground floor level hosts the main public functions, with the entry lobby, library, multi-function hall, and canteen easily accessible from the school entrance. Located in proximity of the outdoor stadium away from the teaching units, the head block to the North includes the indoor sports area at the second floor.
The ground floor area along the building’s perimeter is left entirely open, creating a shaded outdoor activity space. Here a set of running tracks loops around the building and across the yards, connecting the regular sports track and becoming a 1Km long ‘super track’.
In order to enrich the offer of outdoor activities and give the opportunity for alternative learning spaces, a series of crop gardens at the rooftop levels and a constructed wetland in the northern yard, become a playful and effective feature for the kids to learn about different plants and how to grow vegetables.
The color concept defines functionally the building. The main exterior façade of the teaching units is composed by aluminum curtain wall panels in four different shades of grey designed to resemble the look and the solidity of a stone wall. The public functions at the first floor and the inner walls at every level above are characterized by a different green tone that outlines the circulation and helps navigating through the building.
In Hexi Primary School, MUDI adopted an energy-saving strategy tailored to Nanjing’s humid climate. A passive solar collectors system is combined with photovoltaic energy generation; rainwater is filtered through a series of landscape features and harvested in underground cisterns whilst the rooftop gardens and the porous surfaces at the ground level help retaining the water runoff. Indoor full central air-conditioning with an integrated air purification system create a safe, comfortable and environmentally friendly learning environment for the students. These sustainable strategies combine to meet and exceed the green requirements set out in the brief, for a school that is truly rooted in its surroundings.
Despite the challenging site constraints and the strict local regulations, the design is both efficient and iconic, breaking the conventions of local school design and focusing on stimulating learning spaces for the students.
Hexi New Town, Jianye District, Nanjing, China
Nanjing Hexi Xincheng Construction Development Co., Ltd.
2016 - 2020
Concept Design / Schematic Design / Design Development / Construction
Gao Feng, MUDI