Nature is the teacher of this language school in China

Nanshan Foreign Language School is a primary and secondary school campus which contains a library, a gym, classrooms, an auditorium, an indoor swimming pool, dormitories for teachers, playgrounds and refectories. It took a decade to redevelop this part of Shenzhen, transforming a dense urban village into a glittering vertical city.

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One of the main principles of the design was to emphasize the connection with nature. Another main focus was the creation of intimate learning environments that connect students to the natural world. This is why the campus is designed as a horizontal garden, a green setting that stands out from the surrounding urban landscape. It is unclear where the building ends and nature begins, an effect created intentionally.

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An outdoor pavilion where students hang out

In addition, the school makes the transition between indoors and outdoors. The building itself sits on a natural slope. The design was created to accommodate this existing functionality. Larger elements of the campus, such as the sports hall, auditorium, swimming pool and dining halls are tucked into the slope. This creates terraced platforms that provide new spaces for teaching areas. There are six courses on campus, semi-private spaces for teaching or playing.

A gray building with students on the first floor

In addition, the outdoor terraces are the main circulation corridors, bringing sunlight to all teaching spaces. These “ribbons” connect the outdoor spaces. The classroom layout creates ventilation through high performance bay windows on the north side of the building and shading on the east side of the building. Perforated aluminum screens and shades protect the other two sides of the design.

The corridors of a school

Finally, the roof is equipped with solar panels to provide clean energy. Permeable bricks were used to pave public spaces to mitigate water runoff. All in all, it’s a wonderful example of how to design using a landscape, instead of modifying it to fit a design.

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Images via Shengliang Su

Sylvester L. Goldfarb