DLC: The more a student’s imagination is challenged, the more invested they become in the learning process. Outdoor classroom environments from kindergarten through university are becoming a central ‘learning by doing’ tool when understanding that most activities that can be done indoors can be done outdoors.
With its prominent site adjacent to two of Shanghai’s principal connections to the Pudong Shanghai International Airport, and centered within the Pudong Science and Technology park, the Chinese Academy of Science Shanghai Campus; ShanghaiTech University has become an iconic symbol of the region’s exciting growth in the high-tech field while simultaneously creating an innovative, memorable and humane place for study and research.
As designers we consider the outdoor classroom as a living laboratory for all levels of education. A beautiful tree can become a source of inspiration in art class, sustainable storm water systems the basis for a science lesson and a series of boulders the starting point for a math problem. The outdoor curriculum changes with a student’s evolving needs and interests; from dynamic spaces of color, light, scale, interconnectivity and the element of surprise among young children, to a slightly less saturated setting of color and graphic quality when developing one’s mind and craft in university spaces.
In university settings, people of diverse backgrounds and interests come together for intense periods of study, research and learning. Central to their success is a physical environment which encourages collaboration and community as well as support for their academic work. Higher educational institutions are often known for both their pursuit of academic excellence and the landmark quality of their distinctive and memorable physical settings. These schools are characterized by a set of buildings that frame a wide range of spaces and settings for the overlapping paths and rhythms of life interwoven into the campus environment.
The landscape for the new ShanghaiTech University serves many organized purposes. Three north-south main landscape thoroughfares connect the building massing and shape a unique framework for the four main colleges, housing, athletics, social centers, vehicular circulation and overall pedestrian experience. These green spines vary in character from strongly symmetrical formal spaces to organic, soft and meandering. Despite their different visual characters, each serves as important ecological function- managing storm water from adjacent buildings and surface runoff.
Perpendicular to the green thoroughfares a covered pedestrian arcade creates a strong east-west spine linking the network of exterior spaces together by providing the student and visitor a connection to daylight and natural environments that help give opportunities to enhance creativity, productivity and learning. It is also ecological and sustainable; the landscape incorporates a variety of storm water management strategies into its many courtyards, gardens and pedestrian connections.
Surrounded by an existing water body, the university is uniquely positioned to be an example of innovation in storm water management by utilizing this resource for education, recreation and beauty. Care has been taken to provide navigable waterways throughout campus that link internally to each another with its main connection to the larger water body surrounding the site. Each radiating landscape corridor starting from the southern entrance of the campus brings the elements of water and the riparian ecology to maximize the water’s self-purification capacity with native riparian florae and water cleansing ‘phytoremediation’.
At almost every campus access point, pedestrians and vehicles utilize bridges to cross these waterways, providing a special sense of arrival that is grounded in the image of a campus dedicated to sustainability and the beauty of the landscape. Socially, the landscape hosts the greatest scientific minds from all corners of the globe; bringing them together in shared spaces to deliberate and converse; designing a sustainable landscape expresses the mission of great institutions and is an educational demonstration of the research and science to which the institution is committed.
Landscape Architect: DLC
Architect: Moore Ruble Yudell Architects & Planners
Client: ShanghaiTech University
Project location: 393 Huaxia Middle Road, Pudong New District, Shanghai