Li Xiaodong wins Aga Khan Award for The Bridge School
“The Bridge School”, this year’s winner of the Aga Khan Awards, is a community center that connects the two sides a small creek that runs through the center of Xiashi, an old village in Fujian Province in China.
The massive stone construction of the traditional building style of the region is not at all reflected in the design of the school.
Yet architect Li Xiaodong‘s use of modern and frugal steel and bamboo does not jar, even though it is very different from the surrounding buildings.
By contrast with the ancient stone, air and light easily pass through the walls of the structures. As in his previous work (we covered his Water House) a feeling for the simple matters of rural life is apparent in Xiaodong’s architecture.
The tiny, modern school is somehow right for the village, nonetheless. The project brings new life to what was a declining village.
The Aga Khan Awards, known for their promotion of sustainable green design, can be “anywhere in the world but must successfully address the needs and aspirations of societies in which Muslims have a significant presence.”
The broader social aspect of the project in the declining village in an isolated area in rural China was part of the brief, which was developed with the school principal and head of the village to answer community needs rather than simply those of a primary school.
The school is housed in a barely defined space that is literally suspended across the creek, providing both a school and a bridge. Two steel trusses span the creek with the space between them housing the functions of the school in an enclosed space on top.
Suspended from the structure and running below it is a pedestrian bridge for the people of the village to use to cross the creek.
By connecting the village together, the bridge is literally a bridge, but the building also houses a school, a public library and a performance space. The Bridge School provides a central social space for the village.
A public library separates the two classrooms and the ends of each classroom, or the two ends of the school can be opened up, creating open stages at either end of the building that are integrated with the public spaces outside.
The stage at the northern end can be used for performances, with the toulou as a backdrop.
According to the Aga Khan site, “The result is a project that has successfully invigorated the entire community, encapsulating social sustainability through architectural intervention”.