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Recycled Brick School, Tongjiang, Jianxi, China

By reusing bricks collected from the ruins of a previous school, the designers offer an example of true sustainability in a rapidly developing country

With the aims of encouraging urbanisation and reducing maintenance, the Chinese government is currently consolidating small primary schools in remote areas into larger facilities. In this case an existing school was being demolished to make way for a new one, expanding the school roll from 220 to 450 pupils. The challenge for architects John Lin (winner of this year’s AR House Award, AR July 2012) and Joshua Bolchover, was to devise a new building that would stimulate learning and social interaction within the limited formal, material and budgetary parameters of a generic Chinese school.

The site lies in a rural village populated by farmers growing tobacco and lotus seed. Annual incomes are around $260. Materials from the demolished school were saved and redeployed in the new building. The roof is constructed from recycled brick rubble, which adds thermal mass and provides a substrate for a naturally green roof, trapping wind-blown plants and mosses. The roof steps down to meet a brick wall on the street side of the site, which is patterned by perforations to promote natural ventilation. Wall and roof form a thickened, protective edge to the street, in contrast to the courtyard side, where the facade is more open, articulated by concrete fins and vertical strips of glazing.

The natural topography of the site is maintained to create a series of external steps that extend into the courtyard.The jury admired the robust adaptability of the architecture and its thoughtful emphasis on recycling coupled with simple, effective strategies for passive environmental design.

Brick School

Spaces are cooled by natural ventilation as light and air filter through the perforated brick wall

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