“School began with a man under a tree, who did not know he was a teacher, sharing his realization with a few, who did not know they were students.”
-Louis Kahn (1901-1974), Architect and Philosopher
We are living in an age that is experiencing exponential growth in information exchange.
These days, knowledge and skills are often acquired in places other than a school. In response to this, present-day schools need to focus on developing self-exploration and analytical skills rather than being sheer “knowledge providers”. The hardware, i.e. the learning platform, therefore needs to be changed as well. The design of the project visualized Kahn’s idea of how a school began, creating an innovative, state-of-the-art space for students to interact.
“Tree+Houses”: House as Home
The design intention is for the school to be a forest of wisdom, where students learn and interact under, within, or on top of the “trees”. Built in the form of “trees” and “houses”, this concept gives the building a unique identity which in turn gives it the potential to become a landmark in the local context. The Tree+Houses design also creates an extra “ground” for outdoor events.
The architect created six “trunks” at the bottom of the school, which represent the six Houses of the college. At the school, each House represents a family within the wider community. Strong bonds exist between students and teachers within each House. The design highlights and brings out the best of this important value, and provides a place for students from different ages of the same House to interact and enjoy a sense of home.
The Leaves: Form Follows Activity
Above the tree houses are three storeys of teaching facilities, providing a multi-purpose room, classrooms, function rooms and library.
The traditional classroom setting is a monotonic space, catering for the direct “spoon-feeding” learning model. A learning platform with a diversity of spatial qualities, on the other hand, allows different learning activities to occur in the same place. The form begins at the microscopic point of view: the architectural form is driven by the design and disposition of its smallest component, the basic classroom module, which can be varied in shape and fenestration to suit different activities. Thus, each classroom is partitioned by moveable panels, facilitating spill-out into the breakout spaces and providing opportunities for different spatial arrangements for learning and playing.
Every Space is an Event Space
No space is ever solely “circulation space”. Therefore, every space induces activities and forms a dialogue with its immediate surroundings. These spatial links created between learning environments help to achieve synergy among the teachers and students at the school. A space might be used as art gallery, installation exhibition hall or for other creative art performances.
The Sky Playground
Meandering in and out of the building footprint, a green layer will define the building envelope and take the form of a “tree crown”. The three-dimensional roof-scape will provide an extra “ground” for outdoor activities, where teachers and students can create experiences in an arena-like atmosphere. Other sports facilities are located at the ground floor or basement level.