Nanjing International School: Dear Architect

Nanjing, China, 2016-19

NoTosh Team

Ewan McIntosh, Hamish Curry, Malie Watson

Dear Architect...

Nanjing International School

When it comes to building a new school, architects and schools have had little more option than to base design on prior experience or untested ideas of what the future could look like, until now.

Nanjing International School’s (NIS) teachers were determined to redesign their Library and Early Years classrooms so that they reflected the community’s forward-looking strategy, which they formed the year before.

NIS created a comprehensive overview of what they wanted to create so that the final result would not only reflect the school and their learners, but allow them to grow and innovate for years to come so that any any architect coming in would know who the school is as a community, how they use their spaces and how they learn.

Through their work with NoTosh, NIS were able to identify, examine and explore the different kinds of space encountered across the school, how these impacted the learning taking place, and how these could be influenced to create new kinds of working environments. NIS rekindled the passion and insight borne out of their strategy design and stayed true to themselves putting student voice and choice at the heart of their investigation to designing spaces for learning.

The voice of the learner was paramount to the school in this process and saw the design team identify and deliver a report on a number of changes that should and could be made, across both the Library Commons and Early Years spaces.

NIS were able to take what they thought they needed and instead present a range of ideas that conveyed what was really needed in the space through a deep investigation into the school’s learning culture.

The overview was presented to prospective architectural firms, which saw a number of different proposals be submitted back to NIS. The winning application came from EIW Architects in Perth, Western Australia.

Since beginning their partnership, EIW have worked closely with NIS, both on and off-site, and with NoTosh, to expand on the vision and prototypes presented in the original overview. Plans drawn up by EIW were successful in winning a shortlisted, international design competition for the redesign of the Early Years.

During the 2018-2019 school year, construction of the new Early Years Centre was completed as the school community watched their vision come to life. Designed specifically for small children as they begin their learning adventure, the space champions play and discovery through the use of all the senses.

The fantastic space now supports visibility, choice and flexibility, with 'campfires' rather than fixed, traditional classrooms, soft snug spaces for quiet learning and escape, as well as dynamic furniture that meets the needs of students and teachers.

The environment and process to design it has been internationally awarded and recognised for the innovative approach, understanding, and diverse use and design of space.

You can see more on the NIS Early Years Centre and how it came about, here.

The work undertaken by EIW Architects in collaboration with NoTosh was recognised at the annual Learning Environments Australasia awards in June 2020 with the project announced as the winner under the Renovation/Modernisation Under AU$5m category.

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