A good design should use as few resources as possible, and one of the best ways to achieve that is to build a structure using recycled materials. Architects Joshua Bolchover and John Lin of Rufwork have designed the Tongjiang Primary School with exactly this concept in mind. The school in the Jianxi Province of southeast China was built using recycled bricks from old broken down houses in the same district, salvaging these materials in innovative ways.
The project was commissioned by the charity World Vision, which challenged the architects to design a new building at the same cost as a typical school building in China. The brief was to expand an existing school from 220 children to 450 through the creation of a new building with 11 classrooms to provide a learning hub for a network of rural villages that currently do not have access to education.
Rufworkhas employed many innovative techniques to make this building sustainable while still working under the constraints specified to them. The roof is formed from recycled brick waste and rubble that thickens the roof to provide additional thermal mass cooling the building in summer and retaining heat during the winter. The rubble acts as a substrate for natural greening from wind-blown plants, mosses and lichens.
An interesting feature in the walls is the perforations in the brick patterning, which make them more open to air and light, as well as protecting the classrooms from excessive solar exposure. The protected façade to the courtyard opens up, comprising concrete fins and vertical glazing. The fins vary in size for different functions: thin strips for solar protection and wider C-sections that contain bookshelves within the classrooms.
Another area of focus for this design has been the creation of diverse learning spaces. Other than the ‘old school’ classrooms, the architects have also concentrated on social spaces for interaction and exchange of ideas. The steps in the open courtyard double as an open meeting spaces and assembly halls. Tongjiang Primary School stands as an impressive piece of architecture, maybe not for its stunning value, but for being a simple practical design making the best of its resources and more importantly, doing exactly as much as it is supposed to do!
Photos © Rufwork