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Qinmo Primary School by John Lin, Qinmo, Guangdong Province, China

John Lin’s gently curving, brightly coloured Primary School rethinks standard Chinese rural school design. Photography by John Lin

The village of Qinmo, lies in Huaiji county on the western border of Guangdong Province. It is one of China’s poorest regions, with annual incomes as low as 1,200 yuan (around £107). This project for a school by John Lin, assistant professor of architecture at Hong Kong University, goes beyond mere ‘band aid’ construction, by attempting to initiate a new integrated concept of education and sustainability.

Originally part of a student workshop to rethink the standard, three-storey concrete blocks used as schools in rural areas, the new building has been designed to blend into the landscape of rice terraces. Its serpentine volume takes shape by a process of excavation and filling along the edge of an existing terrace. Individual classrooms and a library are arranged along the gently curving plan, while the roof serves as a community garden. Concrete bleachers link the garden to a public space below, which is used for exercise and drama classes.

Villagers were involved in the construction and painted the bricks for the curved walls in fluorescent pink, yellow and green. Beyond the cheering effect of the architecture, the project aims to assuage the debilitating effect of city migration on rural communities. To this end, new educational buildings can be seen as a means of fortifying social cohesion and improving the economic viability of small villages. It’s a small start, but such projects have the potential to shape a new kind of rural future.

Architect John Lin, Hong Kong, China
Project team Kenneth Lau, Gary Chan, Abdul Yeung, Hugo Ma, Danny Tang, Tim Mao, Tammy Chow, students from Sacred Heart Canossian College

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