Zaha Hadid Architects unveiled designs for Lushan Primary School that blends forward-thinking construction techniques with deference to ancient Chinese culture. Located in the remote and beautiful countryside 160 kilometers northwest of Jiangxi’s capital Nanchang, Lushan Primary School will serve 12 local villages and offer a curriculum that focuses on the creative arts and STEM subjects. To reduce construction time and demands, the campus buildings will be housed in a series of modular vaulted spaces built with local in-situ concrete techniques and formwork prepared by an industrial robot on site.
Created for children aged 3 to 12 years, the Lushan Primary School is expected to accommodate approximately 120 students within 9 classrooms. In addition to teaching spaces, the campus will also include a dormitory and utility buildings, all of which will be housed within a series of barrel and parabolic vaults optimized for landscape views and natural light. The cantilevered roofs help mitigate the solar gain of Jiangxi’s sub-tropical climate and provide a covered space for outdoor teaching. A long central courtyard between the classrooms serves as the school’s main circulation space and play area.
“The barrel and parabolic vaults act as the school’s primary structure and enclosure, with each vault performing as an individual structural element,” wrote the architects. “To minimise construction time and also reduce the number of separate building elements required to be transported to the school’s remote location, ZHA proposes to combine the local skills of in-situ concrete construction with new advancements in hot-wire cut foam formwork that can be prepared on site by an industrial robot to create the barrel and parabolic shaped moulds. The modularity of the vaults enables moulds to be used multiple times, further accelerating the construction process and reducing costs.”
In a nod to the region’s long history with high-quality ceramics dating back to the Ming Dynasty, the vaulted buildings will feature a ceramic external finish laid in a dark gradient of tones that contrasts with the whitewashed interiors. The school is situated on a peninsula and will be elevated five meters above the 50-year flood level. A natural water catchment area surrounds the school for protection and also offers space for outdoor teaching spaces and sports facilities.