NYC firm’s new school design creates open oasis amidst busy Chinese city

Architecture firm Studio Link-Arc was tapped to design Shenzhen, China’s Nanshan Foreign Language School (NFLS), an elementary and middle school campus which doubles as an open oasis in the middle of heavily urbanized space. Photo courtesy Shengliang Su

Architecture firm Studio Link-Arc was tapped to design Shenzhen, China’s Nanshan Foreign Language School (NFLS), an elementary and middle school campus which doubles as an open oasis in the middle of heavily urbanized space.

Located in the Nanshan district of Shenzhen, the 54,000 m2 (177,000 sf) campus represents the final piece of a decade-long redevelopment process which saw a condensed urban village transformed into a contemporary vertical city. Surrounded by high-density residential development and commercial towers, the main challenge for the project was to regenerate an urban condition broken by contemporary development.

The NFLS campus is conceived as a sweeping horizontal garden which contrasts the dense, vertical urban environment it serves. The school intentionally breaks the distinction between a building and an open space to create a linear hybrid with closed spaces, semi-enclosed zones, and open green spaces. Its low-rise composition allows the school to create an open oasis within a densely packed residential community and allows students to move seamlessly between indoors and outdoors.

In order to further connect the educational spaces to the outdoors, the linear classroom bars are staggered in sections. Link-Arc conducted many design studies to optimize the building’s response to Shenzhen’s warm, humid climate. The staggered organization of the classroom bars allows each room to access light, while the single-loaded classroom layout promotes natural ventilation.

The building’s facade treatment also serves to maximize the building’s climactic response. The northern facades are defined by high-performance glass and operable windows. Facades facing east feature architectural shading devices that minimize solar heat gain. Areas facing south and west incorporate shading elements and perforated aluminum screens.

Thanks to these design and technological strategies, the NFLS project was the first compulsory school project in Southern China to receive a Green Building Evaluation Label (GBEL) Three Star certification. Administered by the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development of the People’s Republic of China (MOHURD), GBEL is a green building certification program which evaluates projects based on six categories: land, energy, water, resource/material efficiency, indoor environmental quality, and operational management.

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