OPEN, an architectural firm, has released the design for Shanfeng Academy. This project is currently in construction and was completed at the end April. The new campus center will house a K-12 international school and also serve as a cultural hub for local residents. It is located in a new Suzhou district.
Suzhou, surrounded by canals is famous for its historic gardens, which include temples, bridges and pavilions. These traditional Chinese architecture sites offer a counterpoint for the city’s fast-paced business environment and active social life. OPEN architects had to design a large-scale urban project while being respectful of the city’s heritage.
Nearly 2000 students will be served by the new Shanfeng Academy campus, which is open to kindergarteners through high schoolers. OPEN, an architectural practice, decided to break down the volume into five buildings that are connected by covered walkways. This was to disperse the large number of users. These buildings allow students to freely move between activities even in bad weather. A library, an art centre, a gym, a swimming pool and a theatre with 1000 seats, as well as a black box theater, are all part of the campus center.
Four gardens have been created in the spaces between campus buildings to reflect the unique character of the city. These semi-outdoor and outdoor spaces incorporate elements of Suzhou’s classic gardens like scholar rocks, traditional pavement patterns and water use. Landscape design and the selection of plants reflect each season’s changes. The rooftop is used as a fifth space for recreation and socializing by students and teachers. It connects to the main classroom building via a bridge.
To ensure student safety, the main campus center has been placed at the end of the main street. It replaces a large part of the fence that encloses the school. The campus acts as an interface between the school, the city, and opens some of its functions up to the wider community. The cafe and the courtyard are located on the street. This allows parents to meet while they wait to pick their children up.
For the building envelope, board-formed white concrete was used. This is to honor the white-wall-grey roof traditional architecture of Suzhou and to reduce maintenance costs. Natural light and ventilation are key features of all interior spaces, which increase indoor comfort and lower energy consumption.
OPEN, an architecture firm based in Beijing has expressed hope that the campus center could become a new kind of cultural hub. It will combine the rich cultural heritage of the city with the modern dimension of the newly urbanized neighborhood. The architects have also created other projects that aim to connect with local communities such as the Chapel of Sound, which overlooks the rural mountainous area of Jinshanling Great Wall, or the Sun Tower in Yantai, a Chinese coastal city.