Mulan Primary School and Educational Landscape Design

Department: Architecture
Research Centre: Rural Urban Lab
Active Dates: May 2010 - September 2012

Principal Investigator: John LIN (Co-PI), Joshua BOLCHOVER (Co-PI), Dorothy TANG (Co-PI)
Funding body: Donation from Power of Love Charity and Luk Him Sau Charitable Trust


Highways and high speed rail links proliferate across China enabling the vast movement of goods, labourers and raw materials to sites of production and consumption. Although connecting many isolated areas initiating urbanisation and investment opportunities, in some instances the impact of infrastructure can have detrimental local effects: farmland is bisected; villages divided; and the environment can become degraded.

In Mulan Village, the construction of the high speed rail created a huge incision into the landscape and a repository of unstable earth at the back of an existing primary school. This school was designated for expansion and the objective was to design an educational landscape involving the creation of a new school block, a toilet and a playground.

The strategy is to organise the site as a series of sequential open spaces for play and study. The loose earth was re-contoured and a toilet and reed-bed filtration system inserted to retain the slope, wrapping the basketball court and creating pocket discovery gardens. The roof of the new school is a continuous ribbon that rises from the ground as a series of steps forming a new public space and outdoor classroom. The steps are punctuated with small micro-courtyards that continue into the library.

As the urbanisation of Huaiji begins to expand and encroach on the village, through the provision of these common, shared areas, the school can become a community focal point and active site for discussions, meetings, study, play or relaxation.


The design objectives were to apply a new strategic approach to the problem of school expansion. A phasing and design strategy involved integration of existing spaces and adding value to existing infrastructure.


The school is functioning well. Positive feedback has been received from the education bureau, local government, school principals, and students.


  • Commendation, “ Mulan Primary School”, AR Schools Award 2015, Architectural Review, International.
  • Joshua Bolchover and John Lin. “ Mulan Primary School” in Eastern Promises: Contemporary Architecture and Spatial Practices edited by Christophe Thun-Hohenstein, Andreas Fogarasi, Christian Teckert, Hatje Cantz, Germany, 2013, pp. 266-269. [ISBN 978-3775736701].
  • Joshua Bolchover and John Lin. “Strategies for Rural-urban Architecture”, Resources Urbaines Latentes Metis Presses vueDensembleEssais, 2016

Anticipated Impact

We hope that the project will influence the design of other educational facilities in China and abroad.

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