Zhangde Primary School
Founded in 1921 to educate students from poor Chinese homes, the school has over the years absorbed students from the closure of other primary schools. Eight decades on, the school remains true to its mission of serving the community, with the “school, parents and pupils working towards a common goal
Creating a Home Away From Home: A Place where Students Learn and Play
Drawing reference from the school’s history and mission, the intention is to provide a conducive environment where students not only come to learn, but also live and play, much like a second home. The design is about relating to a child’s sense of scale so as to create a homely and intimate learning environment.
The organisational strategy is important as it impacts wayfinding, which influences students’ sense of identity and security. The main circulation spine along the east-west axis divides the quiet zone comprising the learning studios to the north, and the special teaching and shared facilities to the south. The spine begins with a welcoming entry defined by the projecting plane of the entrance porch and the two-storey pop-out volume of the office and staff room, and terminates with a vista of the hillock beyond.
Within the southern zone, the parade square, basketball court and play field are located on either side of the canteen. This adjacency relationship creates an integrated play zone safe from vehicular traffic, buffered from the quiet teaching zone, allowing students to spill out from the canteen to the outdoors.
Blurring Boundaries between Inside and Outside: The Front Garden- Backyard Concept
The new learning is not just about what happens within the classroom; it is also about what goes on beyond. A solid and void progression alternating between building blocks and landscaped courtyards creates a rhythm that breaks down the mass of the school complex, and provides better integration between indoor-outdoor learning areas.
Early on in the design, the architect has already planned for this Front Garden- Backyard idea that allows students to explore and learn outside the classroom. The staggered learning studios all front outdoor landscaped courtyards. The school has put in a lot of effort in transforming these courtyards into interesting places that can function as stimulating outdoor classrooms, with the addition of plants and water elements. Each learning studio is also provided with an additional back door that extends into an outdoor terrace. These areas behind the learning studios serve as both play areas, and spaces for work-in-progress, which is useful for multi-disciplinary and collaborative type of curriculum.
Responding to Context: Community Rootedness
In line with the school’s mission to serve the specific needs of its surrounding neighbourhood, the patterns, mosaics and colours reflect the multi-racial and multi-cultural composition of the community. It also incorporates a Before and After School Care (BASC) facility especially for latchkey students who would otherwise return to an empty home in the afternoon after school. Ample waiting areas are also integrated into the entrance porch and pedestrian entrance so that parents and residents have a proper place where they can meet and catch up while waiting for their children.