Back to the future

26 Feb 2010

Innovative school for the future supporting process-centred curriculum, rooted in its Chinese traditions

The design for the new River Valley High School (RVHS) and Hostel seeks to encapsulate the school’s vision - 'A Community of Achievers: Rooted in Tradition, Equipped for the Future'. It is designed as a school for the future that supports the school’s process-centred curriculum while at the same time, expressing the strong Chinese heritage and culture of a Special Assistance Plan (SAP) school.

The Chinese heritage is expressed through an abstract modern architectural interpretation of Chinese architectural features such rectilinear building forms, courtyards and meandering walkways. The courtyard is an important spatial organising element in Chinese architecture. A 'meandering' circulation spine connects all the 6 main open courtyards, each designed with different themes such as Science (Periodic Table and Eco pond), Mathematics (Binary code) and Aesthetics (Golden Section). They provide an active space for social interaction, for outdoor learning and also support way-finding for the 2500 students within a large school campus.

The unique geometry of the Chinese bookshelf and lattice patterns inspired the design of the building elevations and the 'pavilions'. These 'pavilions' are cantilevered from the circulation network to support peer or team learning, project displays and social interaction across different levels and disciplines. The 'pavilions' and outdoor courtyards provide learning spaces beyond the classroom thus supporting the school’s process-centered curriculum.

Rather than buildings being seen as a traditional ‘passive’ container of activities, basic architectural elements such as walls, windows and rain screens can be made ‘active’, and transcend architecture into a 3D learning tool. Perforated screens walls within the courtyards (as an abstraction of Chinese scrolls) are designed with calligraphic characters and geometric patterns to communicate ideas and impart lessons. The musical notes of the school song are also graphically translated within a large rain-screen wall by using perforated aluminum panels with different shades of blue and modules. Such ‘learning walls’ or learning tools are not only visually stimulating but also engages the students to link Mathematics, Science, Humanities, Aesthetics & Language Arts and Chinese through an engaging and integrated learning process.

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