Hualin Primary school

Architecture for someone who needs architecture

The beginning of the project
This is a collaborative construction project of elementary school for the great Sichuan Earthquake on May 12th, 2008. The goal of this project, at first, was to design temporary residential houses for the victims. However, as a result, we did not build temporary residences, but built a temporary elementary school. This project has become a very meaningful relief activity from the following three reasons. The first is that those buildings were constructed in very short period of 4 months after the earthquake happened. The Second is that we have collected and constructed with recyclable materials of paper and wooden panels at the site. The third is that both Chinese and Japanese volunteers have cooperated to build this project.
This project has begun on May 13th, the next morning after the Earthquake. Prof. Ban from Keio University SFC has sent me an e-mail. Prof. Ban is internationally famous for designing and constructing paper tube architecture. He had built Japan Pavilion made out of paper tubes in Hannover expo 2000. He has also built relief temporary houses around the world, such as for the earthquake in Kobe and the Tsunami in Sri Lanka. I have received and e-mail from Prof. Ban. Because of its great damages on the region, he asked me about conducting a relief activity for this Sichuan Earthquake with the collaboration of his and my laboratories, involving both of our architecture offices, together. At the time, I was thinking of things I might be able to do something for this disaster as a China-based architect. Then I thought of corporating by gathering both university in Japan and also my architecture office in China. I immediately agreed to participate in Mr. Ban’s plan and started its relief activity. Chengdu is the capital of Sichuan province. This earthquake did not give Chengdu too many damages because the center of earthquake was off to the North of Sichuan province. The reason why we decided to make this city as our visiting site was because they had universities and it was convenient for our university-based project. Additionally, because the quake-hit area requires the immediate logistic support, it is more efficient for us to be on the logistic side than risking ourselves as foreigners by standing in the dangerous field with the continuous after-quakes. In that way, there will be more for us to be able to help.

The construction for Hualin Elementary School
The temporary elementary school has 240mm diameter and 20mm thick paper tube main arch structure. Arches that are made out of four paper tubes are connected together by wooden joints. This structure constructs the basic frame of the buildings. Sash that is made out of simple vinyl chloride sliding doors and panels are plugged on the side walls of classroom. Those materials for sash are cheap and easily available at the region. The partitions between classrooms are fireproofing structure. The roof is thatched with translucent corrugated polycarbonates sheets, and it is designed to be able to take the daylight through the round halls on the roof boards. The outside furniture is produced by volunteers. People often ask us questions about how the paper tube main structure is treated by building regulations. Because these elementary school buildings are treated as temporary school buildings, the building was not applied for permanent architecture legislation. Because the paper tube structure can be easily manufactured and constructed in parts, the construction process became very productive. Moreover, we speeded up its constructions by creating three competitive teams for three buildings, with mixture of Chinese and Japanese students and teachers. Although the construction was planned to be completed on August 31st, it actually delayed. We have inauguration ceremony on September 11th. It took for 40 days and 120 participatory volunteers to complete this project. The school buildings were started to be used right after the completion and still been used by children now.

Architecture for people who needs architecture
During this project, Prof. Ban said, “historically, there is a formula that architects create monuments for patrons. However, we can accomplish something different that architects who does not follow the formula through the relief activity project like ours.” This is true. Even in this contemporary world, jobs for many architects cannot be run away from the authority by government and developers in the economical situations. An architect from Hong Kong was talking about the same thing at the inauguration. He said that “through these earthquakes, many Chinese were interested in volunteer and architects have realized about the meaning of their occupational ability for their social stand but not for the commercial purposes. I have realized about this when the project has changed from temporary housing without knowing its residence to the elementary school which we clearly know the users of the buildings. How great it is to be able to hand in buildings to someone who really needs them. That might be very rare for China, where does not have many individual residential projects. Through this projects, I have strongly realized that it takes some effort to get opportunities to make architecture like this; architecture that which we can clearly see its user, and architecture that we can directly hand the projects in to someone who really need them. Otherwise we cannot get a chance like this.

Project name:
Hualin Chengdu Elementary School
Keio University Shigeru Ban Laboratory + Hironori Matsubara Laboratory
Shigeru Ban, Matsubara Hironori, Yasunori Harano
Chengdu city, Sichuan province, China
Building area:
614.4 sq. m.
Total floor area:
614.4 sq. m.
Paper tube structure, Partially wooden structure
Design period:
July 1st, 2008 – July 31st, 2008
Construction period:
August 1st, 2008 – Sep 10th, 2008
Completion period:
Sep 11th, 2008
Keio University Shigeru Ban + Hironori Matsubara Laboratory, Southwest Jiaotong University Volunteers (China)
Chengdu city Chenghua ward educational Breau (Chengdu city, China)
Jun LI