Hope Rising From Rubble

CapitaLand gives Sichuan students who lost their school to an earthquake a promise of a brighter future

Issue: Oct 2009

CapitaLand Muchuan Green Hope School newly built school compound
CapitaLand Muchuan Green Hope School's newly built school compound

Typically, students are reluctant and dread returning to school. But at CapitaLand Muchuan Green Hope School, things are different: they are more than happy to be back. Built with a budget of about US$320,000 (RMB 2.2 million) donated by CapitaLand’s philanthropic arm, CapitaLand Hope Foundation, the school in Leshan city, Muchuan county is a replacement for the one that was destroyed by the 2008 Sichuan earthquake in China. In July this year, a Completion Ceremony was held to signify the end of construction.

Putting Back the Pieces

Zhang Ying, Project Manager of CapitaLand Muchuan Green Hope School, who has been working on the project since early 2009, attended the ceremony. "When we arrived, there were already villagers surrounding the school. They were all smiles and some were looking on in curiosity," she said. "One of them even thought the school resembled his 'dream villa'."

Students are happy about the better environment

But ultimately, there was no one else more excited than the students themselves. Primary school student Zhu Cheng Feng said in Mandarin: "It is very beautiful and clean. I like the new computer laboratory best, and there are even new tables and chairs."

There's also another addition to the school - student dormitories that never existed before. The journey to school is no longer an issue for students who stay some distance away, thus, reducing the dropout rate.

In fact, Zhang heard that a neighbouring primary school had expressed their wish to move their own students into the school compound. She's glad that more children will be able to receive education in a more conducive study environment.

During the school reconstruction period, students attended classes at the village committee office. "The space allocated was very small but students maintained their lively and innocent dispositions. They had limited resources but made do with what they had to entertain themselves," observed Zhang Ying. "Their agility and creativity were really admirable."

Grooming a Green School

The learning block: Enter these classrooms and you'll find students hard at work

Just as its name suggests, the CapitaLand Muchuan Green Hope School plays a part in saving Gaia - from its choice of materials used in construction to the design layout.

Its design emerged through a CapitaLand Green Hope School Design Competition held among China's top 10 architecture universities.

The winning student designers had thoughtfully integrated materials that could be found near the village for convenient maintenance. To reduce environmental impact, they included recycled materials.

Located on a hill slope, the innovative stacking classroom layout makes for natural ventilation. Extreme weather like the pouring rain or scorching sun can no longer stop students from enjoying outdoor activities: the semi-outdoor patio has shelters that can be opened and closed to accommodate the seasons.

Sheltered link-ways made of locally available wood and bamboo allow students to move between blocks regardless of the weather.

To ensure the school's structural stability in preparation for possible future tremors, the proportion of steel bars to concrete was increased.

The Designers

Sheltered link-ways made of locally available wood and bamboo allow students to move between blocks regardless of the weather.

The three winning designers - Shen Yao, 22, Guo Jing, 24, and Yang Le, 23, - are architecture students from Tianjin University. They admit that it was a lot of effort, but more so, it was a really fulfilling mission. "It was five weeks of hard work," says Shen Yao, in Mandarin. "We discussed every day, ate together and worked together."

"We have classmates who are from Sichuan, so when we were doing the planning, we felt down. But at the same time, it encouraged us to improve our design all the time," he adds. Seeing their designs materialising into an actual building gave them a sense of elation. "We hope that we can set an example and disseminate our ideas on eco-friendly schools," says Guo Jing. "We are grateful to CapitaLand for giving us this opportunity.

The school has not only promised a brighter future to the Muchuan students, but also to these aspiring designers. They're currently doing internships at top architecture firms in Japan and Singapore - their prize for winning the design competition.

Future Plans

More Hope Schools are on CapitaLand's 'to-do' list

CapitaLand Muchuan Green Hope School compound

For this project, CapitaLand snagged the Best Developer (Corporate Social Responsibility) Award at Cityscape Awards for Real Estate in Asia 2009.

One thing's for sure: the Group isn’t going to stop building Hope Schools. Currently, there are plans to bring another five more Hope Schools in China, totaling up to 15 CapitaLand Hope Schools. Green concepts will also be incorporated in these schools.

Zhang says: "The Green Hope School project marries two of CapitaLand's ideals - to build eco-friendly buildings and to help impoverished children receive education. Hence, we hope to continue building more of such schools in the long run."

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