Huizhen High School is a bold exploration of campus design. The aim was to create a campus where time can be “wasted” seriously, even in an efficiency-first education model. This “time-wasting” design is the World Architecture Festival’s Building of the Year 2023. 

Design rationale 

Located in Jiangbei District, Ningbo City, the project is a 30-class residential high school. The increasingly scarce urban space, rapidly growing student population and high pressure for further education have determined the efficiency-first principle of urban campus construction. 

While efficiency is certainly important, the architect, Approach Design Studio/Zhejiang University of Technology Engineering Design Group Co. Ltd., believes that under heavy pressure children need more blank spaces where time can be “wasted” and where they can adjust their minds and bodies, and discover beauty. 


The gentle slope of the roof is set up as an open-air lecture hall.

Efficiency versus inefficiency 

The architects turned the school into a combination of campus and park, based on unchanged overall space efficiency. 

This allows the school section, responsible for teaching, to present the most efficient and compact state as much as possible. 

The park presents a low-efficiency, or even inefficient, feature, creating a place where students can “waste time”. 

Greening the space 

By condensing the teaching space, the design freed up a floating forest effect, resulting in a space that does not resemble the usual image of a school. The lush structure of rainforest plants and towering trees complement each other to create a vertical layering of plant communities within the forest. 

This technique, achieved through layer upon layer of stacking, sets the vertical greening of this space apart from a typical green wall and adds interest to the overall green atmosphere. 


Embracing the forest 

By segmenting the passageways and curving the greenery in a zigzag pattern, the design envelopes people in the verdant forest, no matter where they stand. Utilising the “increase of green volume” method, a three-dimensional greening effect was created, with the space fully enveloped by greenery.  

Throughout the space, several tree houses of different heights are scattered. Students can go to these spaces after class, and temporarily escape from the burden of school.  

Campus design 

Some classrooms “hang” in each corner of the forest in free form rather than following the norm. In this way, the classrooms are no longer considered as neatly arranged “machines”, and classes within them can be full of adventure. The paths between classrooms are no longer the shortest straight line between two points – they present a state of growth and spreading, meandering through the forest.  

Park design 

The condensed teaching buildings mean that the ground is no longer fragmented and separated by the buildings – instead it becomes a street where students can roam freely throughout the campus. The tightly connected teaching buildings naturally form a continuous undulating roof, providing students with a massive-scale rooftop strolling park. 

By using the gentle slope of the roof to set up an open-air lecture hall, classes can also be held on the roof. 

At Huizhen High School, the sky is the limit, with limitless imagination. 

 Project name: Huizhen High School, Ningbo City, China. 

Architect: Approach Design Studio/Zhejiang University of Technology Engineering Design Group. 

World Architecture Festival: Category winner, entrant, shortlist, World Building of the Year. 

Category: Completed buildings – school.   

Year: 2023. 

Full acknowledgement and thanks go to for the information in this article. 

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