Surrounded by the lush green hills and terraced fields of Longtan district, Shanhe Elementary School is situated by the mountain side in Taoyuan City. The existing school building is set out in a “ㄇ” shaped layout in plan, centred to the running track and opened to the southern terraced fields. The current school buildings consist mostly of classrooms, and lacked
a semi-outdoor space allowing for other types of activities.
The site for the new activity space is an empty lot on the western side of the school and it is 1.6 meters lower from the main school ground. The four edges of the site has very different boundary conditions: The southern edge faces towards the view of the hills; the eastern edge is right next to an existing retaining wall where the treed playground sits at the upper end; the northern edge is an open ramped corridor space with double height columns that connect between the ground and upper floor classrooms along the western edge, children can run freely between levels via the ramps and create a free-flowing circulation for activities; the western edge faces the two level classrooms and their open air corridor space at each level. Although the site has interesting edge conditions, it‘s lowered position to the main ground created a limitation and discontinuation in its relationship to the school as a whole.
The design intends to induce openness to allow moving between spaces freely, and encourages spontaneous shifts between indoor/outdoor sports, classes, practices, performances and any other events to take place.
The architecture and design strategy of the new “open-weather activity space” is a response to the site and its immediate environment, utilising the sculpted material nature of concrete as the main structural design method creating continuous flow of movement between activities on the school ground. On the Southern edge, the mass of the concrete wall extends toward the edge of the school ground, anchoring the architecture form to the existing landscape, and at the same time transforming into a boundary line between the interior and exterior. On the Eastern edge, the wide stepping platforms connect between the different levels, creating a new outward relationship with the treed playground, and a new inward relationship for seating or stage activities. On the Western edge, the reinforced concrete construction has a series of cantilevered beams, extending to create an open- corridor space beneath, subtly merging in with the existing covered corridor beside the classrooms. On the Northern edge, the slope of the gentle stepping platforms echoes the slope of the existing ramps and double height columns, allowing further cross-over circulation to occur and furthering the connection horizontally between the new and existing spaces, therefore visually extending upwards, enforcing a connection between the grounding mass, columns and the roof canopy above. This open and multi-directional structure quietly casts itself into the site and blends into the surrounding environment.
The upper part of the new space is a steel roof structure, operating separately to the ground as a formal gesture. The roof form slopes down from west to east, constructed with multiple single-directional double steel plate roof beams that slope down towards the treed playground at the lower end, and at the upper end it opens up towards the existing corridor space, allowing existing corridor to participate as a part of the new “open-weather activity space”. A free-flowing sectional relationship between the three different level heights, generate an architectural form that can operate as a multi-directional activity and viewing space. The sloping roof turns into a gradual curve at the east elevation, becoming a hidden centre to the overall architectural design system, creating a greater sense of “stage” for events below.
Seeing through the walls and columns, the curved sloping roof and the sculpted structural base, the architecture frames new window openings from the inside out.