Infinity 6 Pop-Up School by Crossboundaries
Design Team: Marijana Simic, Cynthia Cui, HOU Jinghui, HAO Hongyi, GAO Yang; Program: Pop-Up School; Location: Shenzhen, China; Building area: 200 sqm Site Area: 324sqm; Completion Date: Dec. 22, 2019; Partners in Charge: Binke Lenhardt, DONG Hao; ; Photographer: BAI Yu.
In the past 40 years, the city of Shenzhen in China has grown its population more than 40-fold, while the number of primary schools has not even doubled, going from 226 to just 342. As China’s largest city of immigrants, with a very young population, the pressure to get seats in the city’s school system became an urgent matter for the city government that had openly acknowledged that it is now the city’s top priority to build and expand its public school system. Can architects help this process by embracing fast, modular building technologies without compromising the future education principles that imply bigger freedom in arranging spaces? Invited to address this matter through an installation at the Shenzhen – Hong Kong Biennale, Crossboundaries came up with Infinity 6 – a fun inducing manifesto for future schools, where you can learn about the possibilities of modular prefabrication, while experiencing and interacting with the playful space. Working closely with the fabricator we amended the standard modular system to respond to our interlocked “X” shape, creating plazas of different sizes and characters in each of the resulting corners. No matter which side you approach the building from, it awaits you with an open, welcoming area. This idea of openness ripples through our vision of the future, where school extends beyond its walls and becomes a welcoming, interactive space. In the world in which education is becoming a lifelong journey, no longer limited to certain age, place or linear teaching programs, the notion of school should transform as well, to include a more flexible, improvisational and collaborative mindset. To summarize this vision, we tried to express it through six spatial representations: 1 – gathering plaza that features a stage and the “hang out stairs” for big public gatherings, 2 – in & out plaza, that features classroom porosity where the outdoor space physically participates as a learning space, 3 – private plaza as an antidote to gathering that features a graffiti blackout poetry wall and individual seating, 4 – texture plaza that features richness in texture, 5 – big openings on the façade that integrate the school with its surroundings by providing the glimpses into the school’s inner world and 6 – “smart” building features that promote interactivity and embrace unpredictability of skills that future will require. Visitors of the installation were invited to explore the small, yet playful space and experience each plaza and their characteristics. The exhibition inside the space featured some of Crossboundaries’ previous educational projects, including the recently finished Jinlong School in Shenzhen that was in big part made of prefabricated modular elements. The conversations that started at the exhibition opening, that we full-heartedly participated, gave us an insight in many of the parents’ and teachers’ hopes and wishes for the next generations’ education. This is how our own mission as educational space designers constantly broadens: it should always echo the ways of the future learning and imply the active participation in cross-disciplinary conversations and trends that influence the future of schools.