The ISF Academy
In 1998, the newly appointed first Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Tung Chee Hwa encouraged the development of private independent schools in order to inject diversity into the existing educational system. He deemed it necessary for the continued development of Hong Kong as a competitive, cosmopolitan city, offering academic choices for parents and children from all backgrounds. As part of this drive towards educational reform, the client was awarded an enviable site in Pokfulam for a private independent school to accommodate a projected 1,800 students enrolled in immersion studies from kindergarten to matriculation. The architect provided a full scope of services including master planing, architectural design and interior design. The 13,152 square metre project spanned 2003 to 2007 from conception to completion. Adjacent to the recently developed Cyberport mix-use complex and nestled within the subtropical greenery of Pokfulam, the site was ideal for a school as it was accessible to Hong Kong's CBD while having the feel of being in the countryside. During the programming stage of the project, internal traffic was given top priority, particularly during the school's peak hours, with regards to safe, comfortable circulation for children ranging from 5 to 18 years of age. As the site is situated in a valley, the architect used the site's topography for staff, parent and guest access on the same level as the main road leading to the school. One level below is dedicated parking and the loading/unloading of students, with direct access to the classrooms in the blocks above within a sheltered environment. Vehicular and pedestrian traffic are carefully segregated, to allow maximum freedom of movement for the students throughout the entire campus. The complex is essentially two four-storey blocks situated at the north and south ends of the site, housing secondary and primary students respectively. These blocks rest on a two-storey communal linking podium that contains the administration, communal and parking facilities. With regards to conceptual form and design execution, the architect's solution is radically different than existing schools in Hong Kong. The two different buildings are intentional metaphors for a student's progressive journey through a full Chinese and English immersion programme. Each has its own separate entrance to give them unique identities. A corridor facing views of the green mountainside connects the two masses and is covered with staggered Plexiglas sheets to allow precipitation drainage to be viewed as a design element in its own right. Next to the corridor, a gently sloping upward path with greenery aside is an abstract interpretation of the school's educational philosophy for transcending the innocence of childhood towards an independent and adventurous adult: "a discovery from zero to one." The circle is an important building block in traditional Chinese design; for little ones, it represents the security of home. The main entrance is also the primary school


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