In 1989 “Project Hope” was launched by the NGO, China Youth Development Foundation to help establish schools in remote rural areas. However due to reasons such as the one-child policy and competition for foreign donations, these “Hope Schools” have increasingly become carriers of corruption and poor construction.
In response, China’s Central Government now advocates for the consolidation of smaller schools into either school clusters or mega dormitory schools. We were approached by the Yanai Foundation to develop a new, yet replicable alternative for secondary schools in Jiangxi province.
This design responds to the recent shifts in China’s school policies. The Yongxin county schools consist of 4 secondary schools with a total of 3,300 students and 1,800 live-in students from nearby rural areas. Treating the school as a village community, our initial strategy creates a perimeter building that frames a large courtyard. This wall, much like a traditional old city wall, contains the inner public life of the school. Additional public and social functions of the school such as the library, the canteen, the art block and the administration building, push into this space, activating the courtyard.
Approaching all our projects with extreme site sensibility, the challenge for us during this project lies in the objective to achieve flexibility without falling into the generic vernacular. As such, the resulting design is capable of adapting to different program requirements and site conditions, including those specific to small villages or even developing town centres. A unique range of social building types within the perimeter would complement specific surrounding landscapes. So while responsive to the specificity of its locality, this prototype also digresses from conventional school designs.