Eco-friendly, energy-efficient and earthquake-resistant schools that are primarily innovative, since they are no longer places exclusively for education but also often open in the evening or at weekends to offer initiatives, extra-curricular courses and sports activities: spaces not only for pupils and students but for the whole community. So, buildings that engage and interact with their urban context and their surrounding nature, founded on an idea of school as a meeting place and a space for exchange, with gym halls, auditoriums, libraries and a campus.
THE PLAN has selected four designs showing exemplary environments where future generations will study. Four examples of innovative and eco-sustainable edifices highlighting the importance of zero-impact construction, or at least building in such a way as to keep energy requirements to a minimum: from the town of Buc, in France, to Norfolk and then Treviso, rounding off in Shenzhen.
Studying enveloped in rich verdant nature and sunlight a short distance from Versailles. Nothing's impossible, because the studio Behnisch Architekten, in conjunction with a French (Versailles-based) partner Atelier 2A+, has designed and completed a new Franco-German high school and campus in Buc, after winning the international competition for its design.
The project aim was to make the original 1980s edifice more efficient and sustainable, while enhancing its relationship with the surrounding natural heritage ‒ featuring tall majestic trees ‒ and natural resources, and reaping the benefits of abundant natural light. This is reflected in the striking protective 'umbrellas': positioned where the interior and exterior spaces meet at the main entrance, these also play an important practical role.
Bold in both color and shape, the two new edifices – the primary school built as a pavilion within a park area and the gym hall with a climbing wall – are arranged to frame the central garden, with its towering protective umbrella structures.
As a cross-disciplinary hub combining art and science subjects and nature, the new science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) teaching center at Gresham’s School in Norfolk (UK) has been designed by WilkinsonEyre.
Located next to the original school complex and a chapel, the new facilities stand as a landmark in redefining traditional school architecture. The project features a marked openness to the outdoors and a clear inclusion of nature, which is an inherent part of the façades, with climbing plants wrapping around the exposed steel structure and sometimes covering entire portions of it.
Flexible, multi-purpose spaces that can be adapted as needed, auditoriums, versatile workshops for group activities, but above all sustainability to the forefront. Gresham’s School is in fact fitted with a natural ventilation system and photovoltaic panels, while natural light levels can be adjusted through a control system and sun-shading devices.
Spaces striking a balance between the rural environment, technological experimentation and future employment. Designed by ZAA - Zanon Architetti Associati, H-FARM Campus ‒ a higher education center in the Treviso countryside standing beside the River Sile ‒ is a great example of this. By renovating existing edifices and demolishing former military barracks, the complex has been actively returned to nature, enabling this to become an inherent feature of the eight units in the complex: three school buildings, one for staff, student halls with an eatery, sports facilities and an iconic library-auditorium, all interconnected by a network of pedestrian routes.
The mainly flat roofs are interesting and innovative, and have also been designed to make photovoltaic panel installation straightforward.
Located in the heart of Shenzhen’s old town, Cuizhu Primary School by Studio Link-Arc - LLC sets an excellent example for designing a school in a high-density subtropical urban environment. Resting on a single large platform raised above street height, the classrooms freely stretch out on various levels, forming a series of shaded outdoor areas which expand traditional learning space and enable interaction with the surrounding city.
Particularly appealing is the top terrace, abundant in local plant species and providing a great view of the entire city: this and the south-facing terrace are clearly inspired by the traditional paddy fields that used to define the area.
CAMPUS E LICEO FRANCO-TEDESCO DI BUC, BEHNISCH ARCHITEKTEN
Location: Buc, France
Architect: Behnisch Architekten
Photography by David Matthiessen, courtesy of Behnisch Architekten
GRESHAM’S SCHOOL DI NORFOLK, WILKINSON EYRE
Location: Norfolk, UK
Photography by Peter Landers, courtesy of Peter Landers Photography and WilkinsonEyre
H-FARM CAMPUS A TREVISO, ZAA ZANON ARCHITETTI ASSOCIATI
Location: Roncade, Treviso
Architect: ZAA Zanon Architetti Associati, RSHP Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners
Photography by Marco Zanta, courtesy of Zanon Architetti Associati
CUIZHU FOREIGN LANGUAGE SCHOOL IN SHENZHEN, STUDIO LINK-ARC, LLC
Architect: Studio Link-Arc, LLC Yichen Lu
Renders and drawings courtesy of Studio Link-Arc, LLC