OPEN Architecture unveils design for Shanfeng Academy campus in Suzhou, China
Architectural firm OPEN has unveiled the blueprint for the Shanfeng Academy, a project currently under construction that peaked at the end of April. The new campus center, located in a new district of the city of Suzhou, will house an international K-12 school while also functioning as a cultural hub for the local community.
Surrounded by canals, Suzhou is known for its historical gardens with temples, bridges, pavilions and rock sculptures. These, along with traditional Chinese architectural sites, provide a counterpoint to the city’s active social life and fast-paced business sector. The challenge for OPEN Architects was to create a large-scale urban project while being sympathetic to the city’s heritage.
The new campus of Shanfeng Academy is designed to accommodate nearly 2,000 students, from kindergarten children to high school students. To disperse the high concentration of users, the architectural firm OPEN decided to divide the volume into five individual buildings, all connected by covered walkways. These allow a large number of students to move freely between activities, even in poor weather conditions. The campus center includes a library, arts center, gymnasium, swimming pool, 1000-seat theater, black box theater and forum.
Four gardens are organized in the empty spaces between the campus buildings as a nod to the character of the city. Elements of the classic Suzhou Gardens, such as B. Scholar’s Rock, traditional paving patterns and the use of water are incorporated into these outdoor and semi-outdoor areas. The landscaping and selected plants also reflect the changes in each of the four seasons. A fifth recreation room is organized on the roof as a retreat and social meeting place for students and teachers as it is connected to the main classroom building by a short bridge.
The main campus center sits at the edge of the main street, replacing much of the fence surrounding the school to ensure student safety. This allows the campus to act as an interface between the school and the city, opening up some of its functions to the larger community. Street-facing facilities, such as the café and a courtyard, offer parents a place to socialize while waiting to pick up their children.
Slab-shaped white concrete was used for the building envelope, both to pay homage to the traditional white-walled, gray-roofed architecture of the Suzhou region and to ensure reduced maintenance costs and interventions. All interior spaces have natural light and ventilation, increasing interior comfort and reducing energy consumption.
OPEN, a Beijing-based architecture firm, has expressed hope that the campus center can become a new type of cultural hub, combining the city’s rich cultural heritage with the contemporary dimension of this newly urbanized neighborhood. Other projects by the architects also aim to relate to local communities, such as the Chapel of Sound overlooking the mountainous rural area of the Jinshanling Great Wall or the Sun Tower in the Chinese coastal city of Yantai.
- Architects: OPEN
- Principals in charge: LI Hu, HUANG Wenjing
- Project team: SHI Bingjie, Daijiro Nakayama, JIA Ke, Ye Qing, FAN Jianglong (on site), Giovanni Zorzi, HUANG Zetian, WANG Fengya, SHOU Chengbin, Crystal Kwan, LU Di, TANG Ziqiao, JIA Han, CAI Zhuoqun, CHEN Ruipeng
- Local Design Institute: Tongji Architectural Design (Group) Co., Ltd.
- Landscape design: OPEN + Z’scape
- Theater and Acoustics Consultants: JH Theater Architecture Design Consulting Company
- Lighting consultant: Gradient Lighting Design Inc.