With the further concentration of urban resources to increase competitiveness and the continued increase in urban density in a large number of Chinese cities, the density of primary and secondary schools in cities, and the corresponding density of students and teachers in a single school, has further increased. As a result, the problems of insufficient land and limited activity space faced by the planning and construction of campuses continue to be highlighted, while the intensification caused by high density largely limits the design of primary and secondary schools in terms of spatial scale, flow lines, and behavioral patterns. However, high density is not the root cause of the above problems, it is a final presentation of the results. It is the architectural organization that determines the spatial organization that is the core of the problem: the hierarchy inherent in the management of school education makes the campus design often start from the top-down mindset of the administrators, and the pursuit of effective management and management safety. Institutional hierarchy forms the planning hierarchy, axes, static and dynamic zoning, including teaching, sports and living in a series of three areas of planning and other design methods, none of which is a reflection of this design thinking mode. And this starting point precisely ignored as most of the actual users of the student's own behavioral needs and its corresponding space requirements. Therefore, in the process of design practice, the author constantly tries to explore the design of primary and secondary schools in a high-density environment from the perspective of user behavior, and sums up the corresponding three major coping strategies and refined coping methods.
Strategy one: small scale
The essence of paying attention to small scale is to abandon the top-down management thinking mentioned above from the beginning of planning and design, and instead pay attention to the spatial perception and usage needs of the actual users of each primary and secondary school campus building - primary and secondary school students - in a bottom-up manner. Based on the research and interviews with students at the beginning of each design practice, this demand is clear: they oppose the oppressive and boring space of large scale buildings, and love the campus that can constantly stimulate "chance encounters" and "fun", with a strong sense of "change". They love the campus space with a strong sense of "change" that constantly stimulates "encounters" and "fun". The fundamental reason for this demand is the contradiction between limited space and extremely long usage time: first, primary and secondary schools in high-density environments do not have as much space as university campuses, and often have extremely limited space; second, almost all students need to study and live in a campus environment for three to six years, or even nine years. How can the above dichotomy be most effectively changed?
The answer is to create spatial complexity that is proportional to the length of use by the user.
The core strategy adopted by the author is to create a campus space with a high degree of complexity and spatial ephemerality by combining small-scale architectural spaces. However, how to resolve the strong mutual exclusivity between small scale and high density, two characteristics under contemporary urban architecture? There are three approaches.
Prototypes and variables
The strategy of small scale refers to the combination of a large number of repeated or non-repeated small-volume buildings and spaces, in which a unified prototype is found and the greatest changes in architectural elements and design language are sought on this basis. Take the Haishu School of Hangzhou Future Science and Technology City (hereinafter referred to as "Haishu School") as an example, this school, which will be put into use in 2018, includes 27 classes of elementary school and 12 classes of kindergarten, with a total building scale of 28,000 square meters. The design hopes to fully restore the intention of the "fairy tale town" in the children's drawings at the beginning of the design, refining the unified prototype of small houses with sloping roofs, as well as the rich and changing colors, the scale of the small houses and the width of the streets. 15 small buildings with sloping roofs form a combination under the corresponding unified prototype. The spatial logic of the campus is formed by the combination of the 15 small buildings with sloping roofs and the maximum variation of the above variables.
Small volume is not the same as small scale, and the design method of simply breaking up large buildings and tearing them down is not a solution to the problem. In any campus building, there are 1) the urban scale at the campus planning level, 2) the building scale at the individual level, and 3) the scale of the building elements formed by the basic unit elements of the building - stairs, roofs, terraces, interfaces, etc. The change in density will redefine the organization between the above three.
In the context of high urban density, each "architectural element" is given more functions and definitions beyond its base, and the relationship between the three scales will change from linear to a closed-loop system. The problems brought by density will be solved by the scale of the "building elements" rather than the scale of the building itself. Therefore, whether the density of usable building elements in the overall layout can transcend the existence of the building monolith and form its own interconnected system is the key criterion for the author to judge the small-scale strategy in the design, which will be highlighted in the discussion of the second strategy "building elements".
Bearish but not real
The small scale design strategy tends to focus on the building itself and ignore the "Void" of the remaining space. If we go back to the users themselves and analyze them quantitatively, we will find that each student spends at least 1/3 or even more than half of the school day in this "Void" space, and the 40% building density of educational buildings will determine that this remaining space accounts for more than 60% of the volume.
To look at the empty space instead of the real one, that is, to pay attention to whether the overall planning and layout of these "Void" spaces themselves also create a sense of small-scale experience, and then eliminate the sense of insecurity. In practice, I have found that the lack of enclosure of space and the penetration of sight lines are the most detrimental to the above experience. Therefore, the design of Haishu School intentionally designed the kindergarten, elementary school and junior high school buildings to be semi-enclosed and open to the main street in the middle, and at the same time, the layout of the building was rotated to resolve the situation of "seeing all the way to the end", so that all the sight lines end up on a single building that can be reached on foot.
Local small wins big
The planning and design of campus buildings in a high-density environment is a game of space and a mathematical problem: the layout of the plan ultimately satisfies the equation of volume ratio. The author has found in a lot of practice that the equation cannot be satisfied by making the whole campus planning small-scale. The strategy to cope with this situation is to maximize and idealize the small-scale spatial experience in some parts of the campus, while strategically abandoning the small-scale demands of the remaining buildings and making them the most efficient, even though it may lead to a large building volume in this part of the campus. This is the local "small wins big".
Take the design of Yiwu New Century Foreign Language School as an example, the building density of the whole campus, which includes 48 classes of elementary school and 24 classes of junior high school, reaches 1.4, far exceeding the average standard of 0.8. How to "stuff the elephant into the refrigerator", i.e. to arrange a large number of teaching space units in a reasonable way on the site, and at the same time to meet the small scale of the campus is the core issue of planning.
In order to solve this problem, the design firstly sorted out the parts that were strategically abandoned at the level of small-scale strategy: according to the sunlight, lighting, ventilation and orientation conditions required by the school building, dormitory and rainy and windy playground, etc., the functional modules are comprehensively arranged in a number of cubes above the second floor that have enclosed courtyards or indoor through-height spaces; and for the entire first floor of the campus, it follows the scale of the local traditional streets and alleys of Yiwu, and arranges and combines them based on the prototype of sloping roof buildings, and puts in "streets", "alleys", "courtyards" and "pocket parks". The first floor of the whole campus follows the scale of the local streets and alleys, and the buildings with sloping roofs are arranged and combined as prototypes, and interesting and friendly places such as "streets", "alleys", "courtyards" and "pocket parks" are put into them. "The campus has a sense of community, and the "streets and alleys" are interconnected with each other. Such a localized strategy of making the small better than the big, concentrating a large number of homogeneous teaching units, and leaving the saved land space for public teaching units and the small-scale creation of public space.
Strategy two: pro-user
Every day on campus students are arranged like a precision machine, with a set schedule for when to study, rest, and play sports, all in a specific functional area of the school building. This kind of function-driven campus planning from the perspective of schools and adults is hardly the ideal school for students. The pro-user strategy is to start from the needs of the students rather than a single point of view of function, which is established, static, singular, abstract, and solidified; while needs are uncovered, dynamic, complex, concrete, and evolving over time. Function is seeing students from a high place; need is seeing behavior and emotion from the student's perspective. Students' needs are individual and diverse, and the design challenge is to understand the unmet and unstated needs of the user. There is a natural contradiction between this diversity of needs and the single function of the building: how can the building monolith meet the function while creating a space that meets the individual needs of students? How to reconcile the playful nature of students with the lack of activity space?
In the design practice, I found that the real learning life of students occurs at the scale of building elements, that is, floor, wall, roof, hill wall surface, stairs, hollowing and opening, etc., not at the scale of building monoliths. A system of interconnection, spatial diversity, scale differences and rich scenes should be formed between different architectural elements to create spaces and scenes far richer than the building monoliths, to carry the differentiated behaviors and individual needs of students of different ages and scales, and to stimulate students' spirit of exploration and curiosity.
Is it a roof or a playground?
Students are active by nature, they can use a flat area as a playground and play hide-and-seek in a small space. Although modern schools have outdoor playgrounds and activity fields, these neat and uniform venues often make students feel distant because of their large scale, and their single spatial state also lacks the possibility of satisfying students' curiosity to discover ways to play. The designer found that the roof of the school building not only meets the basic requirements of sheltering from wind and rain, resisting gravity and envelope form, but if the upper and lower surfaces of the roof are understood as spaces, the upper space of the roof can accommodate landscaping and sports fields; the lower space of the roof can accommodate after-school activities. By allowing the roof to connect with students' behavior, a "layer" is added, which is a space for students' individual activities. For a typical four-story building, 25% more space is available for activities without increasing the number of floors and building density, allowing movement to take place in the profile.
In Haishu School, there are 15 double-sloped roofs on 15 small buildings, creating 15 types of space under the roof and 15 extracurricular playgrounds, such as hide and seek, planting garden, small theater, reading room, running track, stargazing room, and observation deck. These roofs are connected to the lower corridor by stairs, forming a "roof-top activity field system". Under the shelter of the roof, students' activities are not affected by the weather. The change of the interface of the cavity introduces light and nature, the rich height difference of the profile brings the expansion of activities, and the difference of the plane partition and enclosure brings the fluidity of the plane: all of these divide the small scale, increase the diversity of space, and let the students discover their own way of using.
In Tiantai No. 2 Primary School, runways and buildings cannot be combined in the face of a high-density environment. Through a seemingly romantic but rational roof strategy of a rooftop track, the designer defends the students' right to run while releasing 3,000㎡ of public activity space. The roof is connected to each floor by stairs, forming a three-dimensional activity system.
Understand the campus as you understand the city
The school as a whole is actually a small-scale society in which students build their sense of community through first-hand experience. The hallways and staircases that are outside of the classroom do not just serve as connections to the classroom, but are places where students meet. Playgrounds and halls are not just literal functions, but spaces for student communication. These daily activities that take place outside the classroom are actually an important part of teaching and learning. The campus is shaped like a city, whether it is in a "town hall," "square," or "park" designed for citizens to gather, or in a "street corner" or "park. Whether in "street corners" or "alleyways," which are ambiguous spaces that are not designed or defined, students, like adults, can improve their social consciousness by participating in public activities. The reason for understanding the campus as one understands the city is that in the students' eyes the campus becomes more than just a single building, but also the roads they walk along, the landscape boundaries they pass through, the campus nodes they enter, and the markers in the area where the classrooms are located. Each building is a neighborhood, and each neighborhood has its own signifier, and the mountain wall surface just becomes the architectural element of that signifier.
In the design, the wall surface becomes the identity of the building, creating a sense of belonging to the area. From the face to the body, the wall is not a wall, but a thickened thickened surface. The wall is a space that contains stairs, corridors and activity areas. Through the differentiated design approaches of semi-transparent and solid, open and complete, color and warm and cold, vertical interlocking stairs and horizontal intertwined corridors, each wall surface becomes a unique imagery, forming a campus interface and a landmark of place. The wall is not only the enclosing interface element of the building, but also an extension of the interior space.
100 - 1 = 101
Hollowing and openings are the windows for external light and ventilation of the school building. The windows and doors of teaching rooms now often have observation windows for classroom teachers to monitor the status of students' classes and self-study. The windows are not windows for students, but become tools to be monitored under the hierarchy. In the designer's strategy, the two-dimensional architectural element of hollowing and opening is increased to one dimension, which superficially reduces part of the original physical space, but in fact the hollowed out part becomes the extracurricular activities and contact with nature for students.
The place increases the richness of the overall space, and instead achieves the effect of "100-1=101".
In Yiwu New Century Foreign Language School, partial blocks of the teaching and dormitory buildings were hollowed out to form semi-open activity spaces, and colors were used to unify the recognition and sense of belonging of the activity spaces. These activity spaces are places for students to communicate between classes and create an intermediate level of activity between the classrooms and the ground level centralized activity space, allowing students to play fully even during the short time between classes.
Strategy 3: make connections
The flow design of educational buildings begins with planning and ends with users. For different objects, there are three main relationships to be satisfied by the flow design: 1) the flow of students' daily education, sports and life; 2) the flow of teachers' daily teaching, management and life; 3) the centralized collection and distribution of parents picking up and dropping off students. Based on the above three main streamline relationships, the traditional educational building design model and method can be sorted out with a simple functional bubble diagram, i.e., on the basis of meeting the specifications of daylighting, lighting, ventilation, spacing, etc., the school volume is divided by function, and then all functions are physically connected with the walkway.
Such an intensive design approach allows a school to effectively meet its daily instructional and living needs, significantly increasing convenience and reducing school management costs. However, it places elementary and middle school students in a uniform "assembly line factory" - flag-raising ceremony, morning exercises, classes, eye exercises, meals, bedtime, and maintaining a neat formation with the same movements at the same time, in effect training students to be passive recipients of information and unconditional obedience to instructions.
How can we effectively ensure the teaching needs while allowing children to interact and grow better with the architectural space? The author's strategy in the flow design is to fully satisfy and not limit the function of teaching, while maximizing individual independence and freedom, emphasizing respect for the natural development of children's psychological, physical and social nature, so that they can get different learning experiences, and ultimately allowing individuals to build themselves psychologically and gradually form a sense of individuality and responsibility in the interaction with the environment and community.
The aisle is the other half of the teaching space
The mass distribution of educational buildings at the same time determines that the proportion of traffic area often reaches more than 40% of the total building area. This means that the aisle space cannot just be "pass-through", nor is the storm corridor a conveyor belt that transports children from point a to point b like a production plant.
The evacuation width of the aisles of the primary and secondary school buildings must reach a multiple of 0.6m, so in general the width of the aisles will be between 2.4m-3.0m, and practice has shown that such a width of the aisles if they are arranged in a linear fashion with a permeable line of sight, with a distance of 45m or more (beyond the total width of an ordinary classroom in a grade section), will lead to a significant increase in children's sense of being watched and insecurity. The strategy to solve this problem is to free the flow design from the highly uniform linear arrangement, to make it discrete, differentiated, clear, and integrated into a ring by grade, so that the corridors go beyond the role of connecting areas and form a spatial system to accommodate activities.
Specifically, the design of the flow space is mainly reflected as follows: 1) the length of the walkway is reduced to zero; 2) the walkway is interspersed with the indoor public activity space; 3) the walkway is closed into a ring; 4) the walkway serves as a transition space between indoor and outdoor. Take Haishu School as an example, each small house is the basic unit, and its internal traffic is self-contained, so that each grade has its own sense of place. At the same time, it forms a closed loop to increase the opportunities for children of different grade levels to meet each other.
In the architectural design of primary and secondary schools, the school can be divided into three basic partitions: 1) teaching area; 2) living area; and 3) sports area. The three are planned and arranged in a triangular shape, closely linked but independent of each other. In a boarding school, for example, the children will only be in the classroom for about 450 minutes a day, and the walkways, cafeteria, courtyard and playground will be the main places for the children to spend their time. Accessibility between functional areas is sufficiently necessary to provide convenience and to cope with weather extremes. For this reason, the buildings need to be connected by a storm corridor in the scale of the building. Most of the traditional school building volumes are arranged in intensive strips, and the external space between buildings is more homogeneous due to the building spacing, while the independent existence of the storm corridor fragments the already homogeneous space and intensifies the sense of oppression and solemnity of the building.
The design strategy to solve this problem is to treat the storm corridor not as a separate entity, but as an extension of the indoor walkway. In haishu school, for example, the storm corridor is located on the second floor of the 4-6th grade building, connecting the building, the cafeteria, and the weathered playground. It is an extension of the indoor walkway, and combined with the local enlargement of the roof of the lecture hall, it forms a three-dimensional micro-terrain landscape lawn, while physically linking the buildings on the x and y axes to divide the outdoor space of the campus into several pleasantly scaled landscaped courtyards with birdsong and flowers. On the z-axis, the storm corridor is also an extension of the earth landscape, providing a three-dimensional landscape space. People can walk through the second floor or easily go to the second floor to reach various spaces in the campus. The walkway and the corridor are no longer the same old routine, but the enthusiasm of interactive play, learning and communication.
The essence of educational buildings is that they are places of educational activities built by the society to achieve specific educational purposes, and they are responsible for the function of transporting talents to the society. The quality of school buildings directly affects the development of teaching activities and the quality of talent training. During the practice of educational buildings and after the return visit, the author found and summarized the current development trend of Chinese education: the school as the first person in charge of education needs to be responsible for the physical health, mental health, and education of students, so as the school authorities prefer to meet the above-mentioned responsibilities, to improve the quality and level of teaching as much as possible, and not limited to the national education system under the prescribed curriculum The school's teachers recognize and advocate the importance of education in the context of the school. The teachers of the school recognize and advocate that education is not only limited to the classroom space, but also to the aisles, playgrounds, etc., which can be a space for learning, and even to the streets, alleys, courtyards, squares, parks, etc., in the city, so that children can learn and grow through their integration into the community, and in the overall experience and gradual formation of personal consciousness, individuals can come into contact with public life and society. This aspect of education cannot be taught directly.
For this reason, the educational spaces on campus should not only focus on classrooms, but also take the vision of urban planning as the starting point, and strive to strengthen the "sense of community" of the campus, so that the "streets and alleys" can be interconnected with each other, and organically interspersed with a small but beautiful, small but intimate The school is designed to strengthen the "sense of community" of the campus, linking the "streets and alleys" with each other, and organically interspersing small, beautiful and intimate places to bring children an "immersive" teaching space experience, and inspire learning and communication. Take Yiwu New Century Foreign Language School as an example, the first floor of the entire campus is centered on a courtyard, with five areas: art, knowledge, sports, performing arts, and humanities. The "street" flow design organically integrates all the functions together, making the children feel like they are walking through a miniature city, significantly increasing social opportunities for encounters and chance encounters. The conceptual strategy, spatial form and place definition of the entire first floor of the school paint a new and vivid picture of experiential teaching and learning, with design as the medium of realization providing more educational experiences and possibilities for the teachers and students of New Century Foreign Language School in Yiwu.