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OPEN Architecture’s Beijing school strikes a balance between architecture, nature and society

As a recent addition to the newly urbanised Beijing suburb, Changyang, OPEN Architecture has unveiled the completed Fangshan Campus for the Beijing No 4 High School. The project, which occupies over 4.5 hectares of land, slots in with the overall concept for the new suburb, which aims to be environmentally conscious and self-sustainable.

OPEN Architecture has a strong belief that as projects continue to pop up in ever-expanding cities in China, a balance between architecture, nature and society must be struck. Responding to this challenge, the Beijing No 4 High School incorporates large open spaces and scatterings of gardens amid concrete volumes, which house formal and informal learning spaces for the pupils. It strives to use both passive and active strategies to reduce the carbon footprint of the building.

Garden School OPEN Floor plan

Garden School OPEN Floor plan

Floor plan

The spatial organisation of the school is complex and non-hierarchical – antithetical to many modern educational facilities. It follows a vertical strategy dividing the building into two types of educational spaces. This seemed like an evident response to emphasise the project’s close connection to open space and the recreation programme. In plan, the building grows out from a central spine, which branches and bends out to create six different void spaces, containing the gardens and activity islands.

The lower part of the building contains the more ‘informal’ parts of the programme including the canteen, gymnasium and large auditorium space. It also contains semi-enclosed spaces used for small group-activities. As each space has different height requirements, some of the lower floor is underground whereas other areas protrude upwards meeting with the underside of the upper floor of the building.

Garden School OPEN Section

Garden School OPEN Section


The upper level houses the more ‘formal’ learning spaces including classrooms, laboratories and classrooms. The rooftop has been converted into an urban-farm, which contains 36 plots encouraging students to spend more time in the outdoors and learn new farming techniques.

Ultimately, the overall aim of the project is to show that a conventional approach does not have to be implemented when designing a school. OPEN Architecture wants to inspire other practices to design projects like the Beijing No 4 School, which could hopefully initiate some much-needed changes in the educational system in China today and create a place for different individuals to come together and learn.

Beijing No 4 High School

Architect: OPEN Architecture

Photographs: Xia Zhi and Su Shengliang


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