Project: Nanjing Hexi No.4 Primary School
Location: Hexi New Town, Jianye District, Nanjing, China
Area: 268,096 sf
Photographs by: Gao Feng
Nanjing Hexi No.4 Primary School by MUDI
Founded in Munich in 2004 and based in Shanghai since 2005 MUDI (Munich Urban Design International) offers a comprehensive range of services in the field of design with focus on energy efficient architecture and sustainable urban planning.
We believe that a “Sustainable Future” can best be reached through “Integrated Design”, result of a holistic, collective and inclusive approach to architecture and planning that involves the cooperation with experts from different disciplines and shared resources with other designers. Being one of the first international practices to focus on energy efficient architecture and sustainable urban planning in China, we are aware of our responsibility towards the social and environmental impact of our design.
Our competence in different fields of design is supported globally by multiple design partners, collaborators and consultants working with us in Shanghai and overseas. Throughout the years this approach has become a consolidated work method that has generated hundreds of successful collaborations and award-winning projects in China and abroad. Some of our awarded projects include: Pujiang Intelligence Valley Offices in Shanghai, the first low carbon project outside of Germany receiving the German Energy passport in 2006; Nanjing Hexi No. 4 Primary School; Shenzhen Xiangmi Park and Library in collaboration with MLA+; Hangzhou H Gateway Office in collaboration with JDS.
The recent 2014 Nanjing Youth Olympics helped establish Nanjing’s reputation, both nationally and internationally, as a city dedicated to supporting physical and mental fitness of China’s young athletes. Following the city’s offer of sports and activities for the youngsters, MUDI integrates education and physical health in a sustainable campus design that combines the technological sophistication of German building design with a comprehensive local understanding of code and climate conditions.
Despite the challenging site constraints and the strict local regulations, the design is both efficient and iconic, breaking the conventions of local school design and focusing on stimulating learning spaces for the students. Accounting for the offsets from primary and secondary roads, a future metro line and an adjacent gas station protection area, the leftover footprint for classroom program is only 40% of the total site area. Unlike conventional school buildings in China where the teaching units and public functions are usually detached, in Hexi Primary School the school complex is gathered in one compact volume result of the extrusion of the remaining available area.
Two large courtyards puncture the volume and separate the three main diagonal teaching blocks, providing sunlight, natural ventilation and generous outdoor space for kids’ activities. The ground floor building’s perimeter is left entirely open, creating a shaded outdoor activity space where a set of running tracks loops around the building and across the yards, connecting the regular sports track and becoming a 1Km long ‘super track’.
At the upper levels, the circulation is organized along the shaded perimetric hallways that link all the regular classrooms with the laboratories and offer a generous semi-outdoor playground where the pupils can play and mingle.
Special classrooms and laboratories are distributed according to their required daylight along the building’s perimeter. The ground floor level hosts the main public functions, with the entry lobby, library, multi-function hall, and canteen easily accessible from the school entrance. Located in proximity of the outdoor stadium away from the teaching units, the head block to the North includes the indoor sports area at the second floor.
In order to enrich even further the offer of outdoor activities and give the opportunity for alternative learning spaces, a series of crop gardens at the rooftop levels and a constructed wetland in the northern yard become a playful and effective feature for the kids to learn about different plants and how to grow vegetables.
The color concept defines functionally the building. The main exterior façade of the teaching units is composed by aluminum curtain wall panels in four different shades of grey designed to resemble the look and the solidity of a stone wall. The public functions at the first floor and the inner walls at every level above are characterized by a different green tone that outlines the circulation and helps navigating through the building.
In Hexi Primary School, MUDI adopted an energy-saving strategy tailored to Nanjing’s humid climate. A passive solar collectors system is used to heat the water of the canteen and the kitchen and it is combined with photovoltaic energy generation; rainwater is filtered through a series of landscape features and harvested in underground cisterns whilst the rooftop gardens and the porous surfaces at the ground level help retaining the water runoff. Indoors, natural lighting is enhanced in the sports hall by tubular skylights in order to reduce the use of artificial lighting and meet the illumination requirements for daytime sports. Furthermore, the ceiling of the sports hall is equipped with a vacuum tube solar water heating system. The building adopts full central air-conditioning with an integrated air purification system and heat recovery in order to create a safe, comfortable and environmentally friendly learning environment for the students. These sustainable strategies combine to meet and exceed the green requirements set out in the brief, for a school that is truly rooted in its surroundings.
The school started construction in August 2017 and was officially inaugurated in August 2020. Through the joint efforts of all participating parties, the project has been already awarded in 2018 with the “Digital Construction Site Smart Safety Supervision”, with the “Three-star Construction Site Standardization”, the “Nanjing Construction Industry New Technology Application and Process Operation Standards” and with the Silver Award of the Video Contest “VR Visualized Prefabricated Computer Room Installation Technology”.