2023 World Architecture Festival declares Chinese high school is World Building of the Year
Leading global brand GROHE supports the award
The 2023 World Architecture Festival (WAF) has declared Huizhen High School by Approach Design Studio/Zhejiang University of Technology Engineering Design Group in China as the World Building of the Year.
The ultimate accolades of World Building of the Year, World Interior of the Year, Future Project of the Year and Landscape of the Year were announced on December 1, 2023, at a grand finale gala dinner at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore.
A host of Special Prizes, including the International Building Beauty Prize, Best Use of Colour Prize and Small Project of the Year, were also announced at the closing event to celebrate the sixteenth edition of the festival.
The announcement follows the final day of WAF, in which prize winners across all 44 categories competed for the winning titles.
World Building of the Year, supported by GROHE, was awarded to Huizhen High School by Approach Design Studio/Zhejiang University of Technology Engineering Design Group in China. The project was initially shortlisted in the Completed Building School category.
‘Efficiency-first’ campus design
Located in Jiangbei District, Ningbo City, Huizhen is a bold exploration of ‘efficiency-first’ campus design where time can be ‘wasted’ seriously. The boarding school campus is a ‘floating forest’ with classrooms hung in each corner of the forest and joined by meandering paths.
Scattered tree houses provide students with temporary escapes from the burden of school. A ramp leads up to a gently sloping roof, which doubles as an open-air lecture hall and a rooftop park with sporting facilities, usable by the public at the weekend – creating a new typology of architectural promenade.
Di Ma, Director at Approach Design Studio/Zhejiang University of Technology Engineering Design Group, said: “We always try to explore the boundaries of architecture while making something fun.
“Our focus was not just designing a school or working with new forms, spaces, materials and facades, but designing new school life and bringing the power of nature into the building. The building allows students to relax and relieve their stresses between lessons.”
Paul Finch, Programme Director of the World Architecture Festival, stated: “We loved this building as it is unexpected and delightful. The architects have managed to create a very different school from the usual model where students are boxed in and put under teaching and architectural pressure. By contrast, this design encourages walking, fresh air and the possibility of reflection away from academic intensity.
“As the architects note, you are at your most relaxed when you are wasting time, but not wasting; instead, enjoying walking to classrooms through a ‘floating forest’ with plug-in buildings and amenities, all with views of nature. Simple materials are deployed for a combination of the innovative and the everyday. There are elements in this project that could be used for schools anywhere.”
The World Building of the Year winner was selected by a super jury of luminaries of the global architecture industry – comprising Sir Peter Cook, Cook Belacevic Haffner; Guallart, Guallart Architects; Richard Hassell, WOHA and Albert Williamson-Taylor, AKT II.
Featured image: The boarding school campus is a ‘floating forest’ with classrooms hung in each corner of the forest and joined by meandering paths. Image: Approach Design Studio – Zhejiang University of Technology Engineering Design Group