By reusing bricks collected from the ruins of a previous school, the designers John Lin and Joshua Bolchover offer an example of true sustainability in a rapidly developing country such is the case of China.
Like many other areas of China, Tongjiang village in Jianxi Province is experimenting a rapid urbanization process; buildings which are at various states of completion reflect the ebb and flow of incoming funds.
With the aims of encouraging urbanisation and reducing maintenance, the Chinese government is currently consolidating small primary schools in remote areas into larger facilities. In this case an existing school was being demolished to make way for a new one, expanding the school roll from 220 to 450 pupils. The challenge for architects John Lin and Joshua Bolchover, was to devise a new building that would stimulate learning and social interaction within the limited formal, material and budgetary parameters of a generic Chinese school.
The site lies in a rural village populated by farmers growing tobacco and lotus seed. Annual incomes are around $260. Materials from the demolished school were saved and redeployed in the new building. The roof is constructed from recycled brick rubble, which adds thermal mass and provides a substrate for a naturally green roof, trapping wind-blown plants and mosses. The roof steps down to meet a brick wall on the street side of the site, which is patterned by perforations to promote natural ventilation. Wall and roof form a thickened, protective edge to the street, in contrast to the courtyard side, where the façade is more open, articulated by concrete fins and vertical strips of glazing.
The natural topography of the site is maintained to create a series of external steps that extend into the courtyard.
This building won the Wienerberger Brick Award 14, where the jury admired the robust adaptability of the architecture and its thoughtful emphasis on recycling coupled with simple, effective strategies for passive environmental design.
The project demonstrates a way to recycle old material into a new prototype for a sustainable school building. It responds to the specific forces of transformation within its context yet also stakes a claim to an architecture that is not overly nostalgic or vernacular in nature.