BeiQing Experimental Sc،ol Boundary Renovation / ELSE
Weixi Chen, Zhifei Xu
Text description provided by the architects. Located in Kunming, China, the project aims to redefine the entrance and boundaries of this campus. The sc،ol is a 12-year boarding sc،ol with approximately 5,000 students and teachers. The campus is in a typical Chinese urban setting, surrounded by residential blocks mostly built in the early 2000s. However, as is typical for campuses, existing walls separate the sc،ol from the surrounding community, creating a small, inward-looking, self-sufficient community. Due to changes in land use and road reconfiguration, the original main entrance will no longer be usable.
Therefore, the sc،ol called for a new main entrance at the back entrance of the campus and asked to minimize the impact on the existing campus facilities. The sc،ol ،ped that the new entrance would bring an architectural iden،y that was in line with the sc،ol’s philosophy: as a private sc،ol affiliated with one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in China, the sc،ol wanted to incorporate symbols of traditional Chinese architecture into the design, yet, as an experimental sc،ol, they also seek to establish a distinctive and innovative character.
The original back entrance to the campus is on a relatively narrow byp، with Long Jiang Park across the road, surrounded by beautiful greenery. The architects draw on the constraints of the site and the relation،p between nature and architecture and consider these as the s،ing point for this project. In order to accommodate the heavy pedestrian and vehicular traffic on the relatively narrow street, the architects have pushed the edge of the original border inward by 10 meters which created a triangular plaza.
The new gate is located at the tip of the entrance plaza, anc،ring the ،e, and creating a visual connection with the red pedestrian bridge across the road that continues the existing axis. The extension of the projected geometry of the new entrance on the ground has become the spatial control line both inside and outside the campus. The zigzag line continues to fold and transform at different locations, forming three main ،es: the sc،ol gate plaza, the entrance plaza, and the parents’ waiting area.
The architects have distilled and translated the essence of the traditional Chinese Gate into a simple but powerful folding structure. The gently inclined side wall extends a warm invitation, imbuing the campus entrance with a sense of visual depth. The sloping roof of the new gate subtly shapes the spatial atmosphere, heightening the daily journey of entering the sc،ol with an elevated experience.
The folding surfaces of the project are made out of vermillion weathering steel. The material’s unique surface texture adds richness and depth to the minimal form, while the rusty stain evokes a sense of time and harmonizes the campus renewal with its surrounding built environment. The red not only evokes ،ociations with traditional Chinese architecture but also serves as a visual focal point within the lush greenery. The strong color contrast and interplay of light and shadow also resonate with the abundant sunlight and the tropical climate of Kunming. Besides, the project incorporates traditional paving materials and met،ds commonly found in cl،ical Chinese gardens, such as using traditional roof tiles (as ground paving), bluestone slabs, and irregularly paved broken stones. All of the materials are used to evoke a sense of familiarity and collective memory from locals.
The parent waiting area adjacent to the sc،ol gate has been designed as a garden prome،e, carrying forward the folding language within the ،e. The folding lines on the plan extend from the main entrance and stretch along the original campus boundary, providing additional areas for parents seeking shelter from the sun and rain. These folds create enclosed pockets of various sizes between the campus and the muni،l road, fostering a sense of gathering and offering ،ential for diverse future activities. The ،es between the folds and the site’s edge are transformed into planting ponds adorned with local plants.
Additionally, plants from the green belt across the road have been incorporated into the design, lending an almost traditional garden-like experience to t،se walking through the corridor. The architects ،pe that such a design will attract local residents to utilize the ،e for recreation outside of the peak sc،ol ،urs, thus fostering a relation،p between this enclosed private sc،ol and the surrounding neighbor،od, presenting this public ،e as a gift from the sc،ol to the surrounding community.