Designs for the German School Shanghai

Urban Exchange: New School

The project idea of commissioning scholarship holders of the Academy for Architectural Culture (aac) to develop designs for a new building at the school’s site in the district of Pudong originated in discussions on the occasion of the opening of the exhibition “Response and Responsibility”, held in April 2003 at the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Center, which displayed both gmp’s projects in China and the impressive work of the aac to date.
The methodological approach of the aac, of intervening in a real scenario prior to the decision-making stage, reflecting on the conditions and fundamentals in a range of ways, concretising the ideas and thus opening them up for discussion on a broader basis, fitted very well with the German School Shanghai’s current plans to build a new German or international school at the Pudong site on a plot provided for this purpose by the district administration.
The DS Shanghai is considered one of the most successful German foreign schools, opening its doors in 1995 in a converted villa for a handful of pupils. It subsequently developed into an all-day school, offering a diverse range of educational opportunities, growing at the same rapid pace as the city with its increasing demand for foreign specialists moving to Shanghai with their families. Today the DS Shanghai runs two independent sites in the metropolitan area under the umbrella of the parent-run school association, currently attended by over 1,300 pupils and kindergarten children: the DS Shanghai EuroCampus and the DS Shanghai Pudong.
Due to the growing number of pupils, connected with China’s enormous economic growth and Shanghai’s role in this process, the schools have been continually remodelled. In 2005 the newly built EuroCampus in the Qingpu district of Shanghai was inaugurated, and in 2007 the school association opened the second site in the eastern district of Pudong, at which 400 pupils and kindergarten children are currently registered.
What, from the perspective of the school, are the special demands placed on a new building? A foreign school is not “just” a site of learning, it is also an important centre of social life, experiential space and a small piece of home. A foreign school should offer a replacement for the circle of friends, the sports club or even cultural institutions and thus has to meet very different needs and requirements. Against this background, the six teams of students and their tutors have addressed a complex, multifaceted task.
Not only did the needs of the children and young people from the kindergarten, primary and secondary schools, together with the teachers, administrative staff and parents need to be addressed. The specifications of a potential building plot with its difficult cubature also demanded a strategic approach from the working groups. Consequently, an important element in the preparatory work were the visits made to the existing DS Shanghai Pudong site and the potential building plot by the Chinese students. The task was to develop sophisticated urban planning solutions within Shanghai’s metropolitan environment capable of doing justice to the special character of an international school in China.
The results produced by the student teams within the context of the project work can be seen in the exhibition and the accompanying documentation, and display a pleasing variety of contrasting conceptual approaches. Each of them has provided a different interpretation of the interplay between the different factors such as urbanity, peace and quiet, a functioning school, a reference to China and green areas.
While a number have been inspired by Tulou round houses, Chinese villages with their alleyways and courtyards, or mountain structures, other groups adopted the idea of a school street or the image of a school in the spirit of a European small town. The principle of an open school without classrooms was also explored within the framework of a highly rectilinear grid structure.
We are convinced that such fundamental considerations on the compatibility of the named antitheses and fields of tension, which are of great interest to the German School Shanghai for its future development, will also be of assistance to other school bodies when planning a new school building in an urban environment such as Shanghai.

Prof. Meinhard von Gerkan (ed.)
Urban Exchange: Designs for the German School Shanghai
148 pages
German / English
Format 33 cm × 20,5 cm
EUR 29,95/sFr. 49,50
ISBN 978-3-936300-94-9