Inspired by the famous water gardens nearby in Suzhou, the Integrated Science Campus proposes a new academic paradigm in which building and landscape interact to form an innovative environment for learning and discovery. Instead of the traditional, static ‘quadrangle’, the design adopts a more dynamic strategy of horizontal and vertical layering to create a series of interwoven spaces that optimise movement, interaction and environmental response.
The design locates high-traffic lecture halls at grade, where the ground plane rises to enclose them in a sculptural landscape of water pools, green walls, garden roofs, and continuous walking paths. Formed around and over this landscape array are a series of sinuous metal armatures that define courtyards and organise larger spaces on the site. Finally, classroom, laboratory and office spaces, clad in glass and ceramic tile, are inserted into the armatures to express the integration of technology and nature.
Within this approach, a number of important strategies are emphasised. Classrooms and offices are planned within a modular system to permit future adaptability; laboratories are designed as flexibly partitioned 'lab lofts' that can accommodate changes in teaching or research as institutional needs evolve. Faculty offices provide direct access to teaching and research spaces; multiple entries, exterior stairs, lounges and circulation links create an interactive framework for a variety of campus experiences. Ultimately the design supports a pedagogical strategy of ‘active learning’ that encourages interactive, collaborative activities both inside and outside the classroom.
The design of the project also responds to environmental parameters through a series of strategies that optimise daylighting, water use and energy consumption. By integrating architectural and environmental systems in new ways that evoke the nearby water gardens, the project aspires to create an authentic expression of both the collaborative vision of the university and the unique physical and cultural landscape of Suzhou.