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Global Architecture Platform

Mulan School

Huaiji County, China 2010 – 2012

Infrastructure has been a major driver of growth across China. Highways and high speed rail links proliferate enabling the vast movement of goods and raw materials to sites of production and consumption. These conduits have also facilitated mass labour migration from rural villages to factories. Although connecting many isolated areas initiating urbanisation and investment opportunities, in some instances the impact of infrastructure can have detrimental local effects: farmland is bisected; villages divided; and the environment can become degraded through altered water courses and slope erosion.

In Mulan Village, Huaiji, Guangdong Province, the construction of the high speed rail created a huge incision into the landscape and a repository of earth at the back of an existing primary school. This slope was unstable and also led to flood damage of the old courtyard building. This school was designated for expansion and our commission was to design an educational landscape involving the creation of a new school block, a toilet and a playground.

Our strategy was to organise the site as a series of sequential open spaces, linking the courtyards between the existing school, the new building and the playground.  The loose earth of the slope was re-contoured and retained through the creation of a reed-bed filtration system and toilet that edged the basketball court. The reed-bed channels bifurcate and split apart to create small discovery gardens and play spaces.

The roof of the new building is a continuous ribbon that rises from the ground as a series of steps forming a new public space and outdoor classroom. The steps are punctuated with small micro-courtyards that continue into the library. The roof is clad in old, recycled tiles collected from numerous villages in the local area. At three moments the roof tiles become vertical walls and help direct run-off water to the ground. A perforated screen walI encourages climbing plants that then cool the air in the hot summer months. Smooth, mirror-tiles are deployed on the courtyard façade and on the vertical faces of the steps. This creates visual mirages and distorted reflections that animate as children play in the courtyard and steps.

As the urbanisation of Huaiji begins to expand and encroach on the village, through the provision of these common, shared areas, the school can become a community focal point and active site for discussions, meetings, study, play or relaxation.


Design: John Lin and Joshua Bolchover
Landscape Design: Dorothy Tang, The University of Hong Kong

Project manager: Maggie Ma (school building), Tanya Tsui (toilet and landscape)
Project team (architecture): Tanya Tsui, Huang Zhiyun, Crystal Kwan, Jessica Lumley, Yau Ching Kit
Project team (landscape): Cathy Ka Kee Hang, Mandy Siu Man Kwok, Qian Zhang

Commissioning Donor: Power of Love Ltd.
Additional Donors: The Dexter Man Family, Dr.S.L. Ho, Luke Him Sau Charitable Trust

Construction surface: 500 m2
Total Cost: 90,000 USD (573,000 RMB)
Unit Cost: 180 USD/ m2 (1,150 RMB/ m2)

12.Apr.2017 2842 views
Rural Urban Framework

Rural Urban Framework is a design and research platform founded by Joshua Bolchover and John Lin in 2005. RUF operates as a non-for-profit organisation and collaborate with charities, NGO’s and goverments on rural development projects in China. RUF work has received numerous international awards, and has been exhibited internationally, including the Venice Biennale 2010. Recent publications include Vitamin Green (Phaidon 2012) and Moderators of Change: Architecture That Helps (Hatje Cantz, 2011). Joshua Bolchover and John Lin are currently Assistant Professors at the University of Hong Kong and have taught and lectured in numerous academic institutions including the Chinese University of Hong Kong; Cambridge University and the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts.

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