Silverlake International High School

Site: Hangzhou, China

Status: Under Construction

Program: Educational

Client: Yongxing Education Group

Silverlake International High School is a premier educational institution located in the Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, a cultural hub and nature resort destination. The site is located at the foot of the mountain of the Fuyang district in the newly constructed campus for a privately run elementary, middle and high school developed by the Yongxing Education Group.


This high school is designed for the crossing of western and Chinese educational curriculum. The Yongxing Education Group has extensive experience working with western staff and administrators to develop a unique teaching, learning and cultural environment for educators and students alike. Silverlake International High School is the bridge for traditional Chinese education to interface its foundations with the globalized community, educating international citizens and the leaders of tomorrow.


The project is inspired by the traditional Chinese landscape paintings. A deeply imprinted relationship to the natural world within this art form laid the conceptual foundations.  Analyzing Chinese landscape paintings, it is clear that Chinese depictions of nature are rarely mere representations of the external world.  Rather, they are articulations of the mind and heart of the individual artists; enlightened landscapes that embody the cultural and social vision of the society. The landscape that is expressed in the paintings is the freedom of inhabiting a space with philosophical and political convictions. The paintings challenge visual perceptions and atmospheric phenomena allowing a scholarly reading of the landscape, one embedded with poetry and calligraphic expressions.


The form of the building was inspired in part by siheyuan (traditional Chinese courtyard homes) as well as the practice of Feng Shui and the sites surrounding characteristics. One specific example is the front angle of the southern façade, which references the mountains that serve as a beautiful backdrop to the campus.


There are a variety of materials used for the building, some acting more neutral while others highlight areas of significance. The main exterior facades (South, East, West and North) use a glazed white tile for the exterior. Each facade has a consistent pattern of these long white tiles, while the North facade takes a more dynamic approach allowing certain bricks to angle outward, creating a texture and movement along the facade. The shadows created by these small deviations also call back to shadows created along the mountainside from trees and foliage in the surrounding area, adding another level of complexity.


The interior of the building is designed to incorporate layers, overlapping areas of program, circulation and common space to provide a dimension of transparency throughout the spaces. The connections made here are visual and spatial, connecting back to the transparency and layering used in Chinese landscape paintings.


The exterior landscape is designed to give the user a unique journey through layers of experiences. The rain garden, courtyard, building entry procession, and the bridges that connect the buildings each have a unique feel. Incorporated into the landscape is a misting technology, used to create a surreal atmosphere that is inspired by the traditional Chinese landscape paintings. They will also serve the functional purpose of watering the native plants as well as creating a cooler microclimate at the base of the building, enhancing the interaction of users. The landscape is integrated not only around the building but also on the building.  Hanging plants don the connecting bridges, green roofs cover most exposed roof planes, and the courtyard becomes a lush area of indigenous foliage.


Due to the sloping nature of the site, the building entrances are split between the lower level and first level, respectively on the east side and on both the west and south side of the site. The lowest level accommodates the parking garage, a restaurant (with a full western style kitchen), work-out room, and the music department.  The music department has a large classroom, storage, 2 small practice rooms as well as a small amphitheater at the base of the open stair for small scale performances that allows the music to permeate into the lobby above. Some of the other programs also serve multiple purposes, such as the restaurant which can be enjoyed by off-campus visitors as well as a retreat for the faculty to dine in.


Almost every area of the building has a dedicated a view to elements of nature, reestablishing the connection. The main entrance is on the first level, campus side; the large open lobby serves as a hub for people visiting from off campus.  The parent’s reception room is comfortably situated next to a large open reading and gallery space to exhibit student’s artwork, trophy cases as well as a small café. The large student dining area will also open directly to the courtyard, allowing students to eat outside.


In keeping with the Chinese tradition of hierarchy, the main administrative offices are located on the top floor, while some administrative services are provided on the first floor such as counseling, advising, admissions, and the nurse’s station. Reacting to code requirements, the chemistry labs are located on the first floor and situate next to a flexible space and future library, as the school expands. The bulk of the classrooms and teacher offices are located on the upper four floors. The south wing primarily hosts the Chinese homerooms and the north wing is mainly occupied by the AP classrooms and specialty classrooms such as art, calligraphy, and a maker space. Both wings have spaces for either teacher offices or department offices.


Throughout the floors there are small areas that are referred to as “soft spaces” for informal gatherings that allow students to socialize, rest, and study between classes. These spaces allow for collaborative environments and events that increase the visibility and truly define an advanced educational system. The Silverlake International High School is designed to respond to the transformation of the traditional Chinese culture and education with diversity of western social engagement.