The Wentao elementary school is a public school in Liuzhou City. It is run by the Wenhui Education Groups, but is administrated by the Bureau of Education in Chengzhong District and Liuzhou City. The school is located in the New City Center in Chengdong District, which is close to the Wanda and Huarun business areas. As the surrounding areas are for commercial use, it was not usual to have it zoned as educational purpose.
It is our honor to participate in this project during the planning stage. Although we may not be able to contribute much to the project initiation, as it was mainly conducted by the administrative departments, we have devoted lots of efforts to improving the details.
The site used to be a campus for Guangxi Radio and TV University for several years. It has a dense growth of evergreen trees. At the first time when we stepped in, the huge banyan trees side by side impressed us a lot, as lights went through the leaves with shadows on the ground. From that moment, we decided to work with Ms. Chen Yiman, the headmaster of this school, to make it as an environment friendly institute for children. We labeled all the plants with enduring values, and coordinated the buildings with these plants.
Ms. Chen communicated thoroughly with our designers about her understandings of “better education” based on her teaching experiences for many years, especially the innovative approach of combining traditional reading with technical innovation. According to Ms. Chen’s idea, we planned to design a corner in each lecture room for reading purpose. These corners were supposed to make of glass bricks, so that the lights could go through, and shadows of bookcases and readings could reflect on the wall of the buildings. Unfortunately, due to the tight schedule and design failures during construction, this idea failed in execution. We recorded this design by photos, and save it for the future projects.
Another innovative design inside buildings was to have several “X” shaped spaces in hallways on each floor. These spaces were placed in the compartment between lecture rooms and teacher offices. We aimed to increase the space for children to have activities during the breaks, and to take full advantage of natural lights and fresh air. As the design largely improves the comfort and pleasure when studying and working in the buildings, students and teachers are highly satisfied.
Due to the limited budget for public school project, we tried using traditional construction techniques and materials, such as terrazzo, to create a space that meets the expectations from children. By mixing cements with only a few colors in different ratios, we were able to produce a series of new colors. It was also a great challenge to control the length of wet operations. To overcome this difficulty, we nailed down every detail of the prints on the ground in advance, and adjusted for “active curve” according to the technical requirements of copper bars. The flat ground with bright and rich colors even made the staffs who had been working in wet operations for a long time feel high satisfactions.
Our designers also paid extra attentions on different functions of space and architectures. For example, we used the lights reflected from the inner collar of façade to form a green diffuse appearance on the top of hallways, which increases the identify of each floor and creates lively and aesthetic atmosphere. Another example would be the resting place in the staircases. By using overlapped arcs with different sizes, we built rooms for children to have activities. Meanwhile, it looks like a seven-piece puzzle on the façade, which symbolizes the featured course of this school.
The stadium has to stand close to the teaching building, due to the limited space. For preventing the noisy disturbance from stadium and multimedia classroom, we adopted several approaches. Besides applying sound-absorbing material on the wall, we reduced the number of windows in façade, but increased the brightness by inducing natural lights through skylights. These sawtooth shaped skylights also address the issue of glare as the lights are “filtered” by their angle of incidence. This environment friendly illumination system grants the uniqueness of this building, and quietly changes the traditional structure of stadium in public schools.
At the official opening of the school, parents gasped with admiration at this beautiful campus. They could tell the difference from other public schools here. The success of this project is attributed to the fully supports and trusts from the school administration, and to their close collaboration with our designer team. As what Ms. Chen mentioned, the teaching environment itself is a tool for educating children. If the kids can have a good experience when studying at this school, and can recall the most treasure moments even after many years, we achieve our goal to provide them with a caring and innovative circumstance.