Replacing an old school building which has been severely damaged and, consequently, demolished following the disastrous 2008 Sichuan earthquake, this austere, labyrinthine XiaoQuan Elementary School has been realised by a Beijing-based practice Trace Architecture Office (TAO). Intended to accommodate nearly 1000 students, this 8900-square-meters development is formed from ‘a cluster of small buildings’ such as classroom buildings, teacher’s office, student dormitory buildings, and a dining hall, all of which ‘create a small city, giving diversified space so as to enrich the children’s experience and activities.’
More about the project:
‘The XiaoQuan Elementary School was built with funding from donations of several sponsors, which includes the Red Cross of Jiangsu, a Buddhism temple foundation from Canton, MBA Class from Beijing University and Tsinghua University amongst others. We were selected by sponsors as the design team, instead of being hired by the local government. Our work started from a site visit after the earthquake and followed by ongoing communication with people from the Elementary school to gauge their needs and concerns.
‘The main design idea is to conceive a school as a cluster of small buildings to create a small city, giving diversified space so as to enrich the children’s experience and activities. We wanted to respect the continuity of life and the memory of Xiaoquan town before the disaster, so we defined several typologies of urban space in the new school: streets, plazas, alleys, courtyards etc, analogous to XiaoQuan’s original urban space in scale and fabric, so as to provoke a familiar feeling of daily life.
‘The design also responds to Sichuan’s hot and humid climate. Sunshade devices, natural ventilation and heat reduction are important elements considered in the design. We also explored to maximize the use of local resources and craftsmanship as much as possible. We chose local materials such as brick, concrete, wood, bamboo, and the construction methods familiar to local workers. The supply of bricks was limited after the earthquake, so we sourced several small brick workshops in same region.Local materials such as wood, brick and bamboo are used for windows, walls, and ceilings.
‘The building is designed with the ability to resist 7.5 class earthquake (in China’s class standard), which is much higher than the previous local standard.’