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Ecological Demonstration Primary School by the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Maosi, Gansu Province, China

The Chinese University of Hong Kong create a template for how to built cheap environmentally efficient schools in remote areas of China. Photography by Mu Jun

With his team of architecture students from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Edward Ng was premiated in the 2006 AR Awards for a bridge across the River Po in Maosi (AR December 2006). When the river flooded, villagers either risked their lives using the old bridge, or were simply unable to cross the river. The new bridge changed all that.

Ng and his posse specialise in designing and building infrastructure in remote parts of China. Maosi, on the Loess Plateau in north-west China, is remote and beset by poverty and a harsh Altiplano climate. Here, limited resources challenge conventional concepts of architecture. But in this project for a primary school, Ng aimed to devise a building that would be low cost, dignified and environmentally sound.

The school is divided into 10 single-storey classrooms in a cluster, following the site’s topography. Each south-facing unit enables maximum sunlight exposure and natural ventilation. Walls of thick mud brick provide thermal mass to maintain a stable internal temperature.

The project is firmly grounded in its locality - classrooms draw on the simple, monopitch forms of traditional houses and were constructed using the skills of the villagers. Along with the mud bricks, local materials, such as rubble, straw and reed were also employed. Roof tiles were recycled from around the village.

The project aims to act as a template for similar developments. A measure of its impact on community life can be gauged by school principal’s reaction: ‘Amazingly, we don’t need to burn coal in winter,’ he says. ‘We can use that money to buy books for the children.

Architect School of Architecture, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China
Project team Edward Ng, Mu Jun
Civil engineers Shi Ziyi, Kong Guanghui

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