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Zaha Hadid Architects designs vaulted school in China made by robots

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The vaults will be made from automated hot-wire cut foam formwork

Aerial rendering of school comprising a series of long, vaulted buildings set on a grassy site by a river.
Lushan Primary School is influenced by the region’s rich tradition in ceramics.
Images courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects

Zaha Hadid Architects announced plans to design a primary school in Jiangxi Province, China, comprising a series of structures topped with barrel and parabolic vaults that will be made on site by robots.

Located in an agricultural region 160 kilometers (or about 100 miles) northwest of Nanchang, Jiangxi’s capital, Lushan Primary School will serve 12 local villages with a total population of 1,800 people and will accommodate 120 children.

The campus occupies a verdant, idyllic site surrounded by mountains, as well as the rivers and lakes fed by the nearby Zhelin Reservoir. In addition to its agriculture, the area is known for its history in the production of ceramics. Elements of this tradition will be incorporated into the buildings’ ceramic external finishes laid in a gradient of tones.

The school’s varied curriculum is also reflected in the architecture. Synthesizing both Chinese and international academic systems, the school will offer education in the creative arts, STEM, and advanced internet-based learning technologies, while visiting teachers and artists will establish the school as hub for the community it serves.

As such, the campus comprises classrooms, dormitories, and utility buildings whose vaults “stretch and intersect” to accommodate the school’s diverse curriculum. The vaults, each of which acts as an individual structure, open toward the river and frame views of the surrounding landscape.

To minimize construction time, costs, and the number of structural elements required to be transported to the site, Zaha Hadid Architects has proposed to combine in-situ concrete production with automated hot-wire cut foam formwork performed on site by robots to create the barrel- and parabolic-shaped molds. This modularity would allow for the molds to be reused, thereby increasing production and keeping costs low.