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The Undulating School - A Primary School for a Rural Community

Part 1 Project 2013
Joshua Wai Hon Lam
Chinese University of Hong Kong Hong Kong China
The Undulating School addresses three challenges in modern architecture: sustainability, place-making and usage of archaic material despite being a simple rural primary school project, challenging clear dichotomy of existing architectural concepts. Harmony between nature, human and architecture are respected, responded and reinterpreted.

Sustainability of the Undulating School is manifested through form-making, materiality and detailing, maintaining comfort of inhabitants in this rural edifice merely by passive design. Extreme temperature oscillation in Hohhot, China around the year is resolved by half-buried building mass following a terracing landscape, moderating internal environment by thermal mass of earth. Natural lighting and ventilation are considered in early design stage to minimize employment of active devices. Green roof and building form resembling natural saddles minimize destruction to natural landscape of site. Sustainability is the form-giver of this project.

Tectonic quality of the Undulating School is manifested through fully exploring potential of brick construction. Local availability and high thermal mass prove brick being the most suitable construction material. Employing Eladio Dieste’s Gaussian Vault in roof design, dynamic brick-constructed vault processing extra stiffness is modeled. Potential of this ancient material is investigated by modern technology and reinterpreted as a dynamic curvilinear form, without losing the grammar of brick. Contradiction of brick’s rigidity and form’s dynamic diminishes the demarcation between high- and low-tech in architecture. Yet, classical language of brickwork is also employed in colonnade and walls, creating interesting complexity and contradiction.

Genius loci, also known as the spirit of place is also addressed in classroom deign of the Undulating School. The relation between space and identity is considered, having modular classroom design evolved as the final solution. Identity of class is reminded by sole possession of private play area cum classroom space by class. Establishment of space-identity relation in school makes children perceiving the primary school as an inseparable part in their social life. Architecture is thus elevated from its physical existence to occupant’s metaphysical understanding.

All in all, the Undulating School endeavors to resolve challenges put forth by sustainability in our era, revive the spirit of place making and explore the potential of ancien

Joshua Wai Hon Lam


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