World Building of the Year supported by GROHE was awarded to Huizhen High School by Approach Design Studio/Zhejiang University of Technology Engineering Design Group in China. The project was initially shortlisted in the Completed Building School category.
Located in Jiangbei District, Ningbo City, Huizhen is a bold exploration of ‘efficiency-first’ campus design where time can be ‘wasted’ seriously. The boarding school campus is a ‘floating forest’ with classrooms hung in each corner of the forest and joined by meandering paths. Scattered tree houses provide students with temporary escapes from the burden of school. A ramp leads up to a gentle sloping roof, which doubles as an open-air lecture hall and a rooftop park with sporting facilities, usable by the public at the weekend – creating a new typology of architectural promenade.
Di Ma, Director at Approach Design Studio/Zhejiang University of Technology Engineering Design Group commented: “We always try to explore the boundaries of architecture while making something that’s fun. Our focus was not just about designing a school, or working with new forms, spaces, materials and facades, but about designing new school life and bringing the power of nature into the building. The building gives students a space to relax and relieve their stresses between their lessons.”
Paul Finch, Programme Director of the World Architecture Festival commented: “We loved this building as it is unexpected, and delightful. The architects have managed to create a school which is very different to the usual model where students are boxed in and put under teaching and architectural pressure. By contrast, this design encourages, walking, fresh air and the possibility of reflection away from academic intensity. As the architects note, you are at your most relaxed when you are wasting time, but not wasting; instead enjoying walking to classrooms through a ‘floating forest’ with plug-in buildings and amenities, all with views of nature. Simple materials are deployed for a combination of the innovative and the everyday. There are elements in this project that could be used for schools anywhere.”
The winner was selected by a super jury of luminaries of the global architecture industry – comprising Sir Peter Cook, Cook Belacevic Haffner; Guallart, Guallart Architects; Richard Hassell, WOHA and Albert Williamson-Taylor, AKT II.