Dezeen Magazine

Erdu Primary School by Paul Mok and Qia Jiayu

Paths and playgrounds connect classrooms at Erdu Primary School

Designers Paul Mok and Jiayu Qiu have built a primary school in rural Deqing, China, which features plenty of outdoor space including parks, playgrounds and an amphitheatre.

Mok and Qiu designed Erdu Primary School in Zhejiang province together with the Zhejiang University of Technology Engineering Design Group.

Concrete amphitheattre in Erdu Primary school
A concrete amphitheatre connects the second and third floor

When the pair were approached by the Chinese Ministry of Education in 2015, they pushed to design a different type of school with smaller class sizes and more teachers per student.

Erdu Primary School is in a rural area, which has seen a lot of its population move to large cities nearby such as Huzhou.

Exterior view of school in rural China
Walkways and flyovers connect clusters of classrooms

In response to this, Mok and Jiayu successfully proposed reducing class sizes from 45 children to 36 and building lots of outdoor and semi-outdoor spaces between them for students to socialise with each other or learn in a different environment.

"Because this primary school is going to implement small-class-teaching in its curriculum, we anticipated more inter-class activities than a regular school," Mok told Dezeen.

"These activities are going to take place outside of the classrooms."

Erdu primary School in Deqing
Outdoor space is for children to play and learn in

Classrooms are arranged around the school in pairs, sandwiching a teacher's office and surrounded by "pocket spaces" of greenery or playground walkways for children.

An amphitheatre connects the second and third floor on the north side of the complex, with a central staircase that doubles as a pathway and an aisle.

Corridors around a primary school in rural China
The school is designed to accommodate smaller classes than is standard in China

Classrooms are reached by a series of bridges and flyovers that link in a continuous loop of circulation around the school.

"Generally speaking, a school is not only a place to acquire knowledge but also where the 'secondary socialization' takes place - it is where children learn to socialize," explained the designers.

"While the use of classrooms tends to be very structured and specific, the use of spaces around the classrooms are less so."

Ground floor walkways in Chinese primary school
Yellow paths on the ground floor add colour

At ground level, plazas and playgrounds are defined by bright yellow floors. Pathways wind through green spaces and gardens, leading to the sports complex complete with a colourful basketball court and a sports field surrounded by a running track.

The buildings were built simply from concrete finished with stucco.

"We didn't resort to any fancy construction materials or details," said the designers. "That also wouldn't be the point."

Indoor hall for children in Erdu Primary School
The designers included indoor spaces for classes to come together

Paul Mok and Jiayu Qiu met while studying at the University of Hong Kong. Mok is now based in New York and Jiayu in Hangzhou, where he teaches at the China Academy of Art and runs design studio GF-architecture (古风建筑).

Trace Architecture Office also used zigzagging ramps and corridors to design a school in Haikou to encourage interaction between students outside of class.

Photography is by Wu Qingshan.

Project credits:

Designers: Paul Mok, Jiayu Qiu
Local Design Institute: Zhejiang University of Technology Engineering Design Group

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