The project is a good example of an appropriate and well balanced intervention, not needing to resort to the glamor of images to convince around its ability to build a bond between users and built space. The jury appreciated low-cost interventions and formal simplicity that offer a high-quality environment for educational processes on limited roof space.- from the award statements
The roof garden of the main teaching building of Nanjing Zhiyuan Foreign Language School has a total area of 1300 square meters, of which the planting area is 820 square meters. From 2018 till now, the team from Nanjing Forestry University School of Landscape Architecture have been involved in the design, update, restoration, and expansion of this site. And the team’s joint efforts with the teachers and students of this school have made this garden in the sky become the favorite place for children in this school.
More than 80 species of vegetables and fruits are conventionally planted throughout the year, and around 30 species of annual and perennial flowers and shrubs , bringing a total output of nearly 1800 kg vegetables and fruits. The garden also houses a variety of small animals, such as rabbits, guinea fowls, hedgehogs, ducks, squirrels, guinea pigs, etc. It’s difficult to see small animals in China’s high-density urban natural environment, so even hares and squirrels are a presence which can excite student. The small animals feed on a portion of the vegetables and fruits harvested from the roof garden, while the feces of the animals are collected for composting. And the sewage from washing the animal cages flows directly into the planting area as a great fertilizer. We chose to grow strong nutrient tolerance leeks in the area closest to the cage, which can be harvest every half month. It’s an excellent vegetable for stuffed buns and dumplings.
The greenhouse in the garden was originally a building structure in which stairs reached the roof. It was transformed into a glass greenhouse and tool room for seedling breeding in 2019, costing approximately CNY 6W(8466€) to construct. The largest wooden trellis covered with fragrant flowers and wisteria was completed in 2018 at a cost of CNY 7W(9877€) and the galvanized steel climbing trellis with grapes and gourds on the outside of the greenhouse was completed in 2021, which cost CNY 3W(4233€). In addition to the above three projects that were built by professional construction teams, the other projects in the garden were constructed in collaboration with the designer, schoolteachers and students and the campus maintenance management team, mainly including the one-meter vegetable garden and the animal cages (completed in 2019), the ecological pool and spiral vegetable garden (completed in 2020), the expansion of animal cages and the furniture facilities for the outdoor teaching area completed (completed in 2021). Over the past four and a half years, the design of the project has been continuously developed toadapted to the needs of the natural education curriculum. With an extremely limited budget, the designers, teachers, students and the maintenance team have cooperated with our hands to design and update the gardenagain and again.
Unexpected surprises like wrinkled mint have completely encroached on the spiral vegetable garden, taking over the space for other plants to survive with their tenacious vitality and year after year these mints cannot be cleaned up. The small copper coin grass pierced the membrane of the ecological pool, so that the current pool needs to be replenished every two days, and the ripening speed of Devil’s Chilli can never catch up with the hand speed of the Sichuan chilli-loving teacher at school. As well as more than half of the peanut seeds planted in the garden are always eaten by the birds, the mature rice is often harvested by the birds before maturity. Interestingly, in summer the lotus flowers, lotus leaves and reeds planted in the abandoned side ditches of the roof will be blown downstairs by strong winds to the crowd of parents who park, queue, and wait to pick up their children. Under the reeds and lotus leaves hide the lobsters and turtles. Every corner of the garden is full of vitality.
In 2023, first class sixth graders at this brand-new public primary school located by the Yangtze River will be entering the middle school, while the memories from the roof garden will accompany these children, who left here at the time of their 12th years to the further future. From 2022, the staffs of this roof garden will start transplanting compost, red earthworms, vegetable seeds and flower seedlings produced on the site into the original lawns and evergreen shrubs on the campus ground. We, the teachers and students in the team from Nanjing Forestry University of Landscape Architecture are still here, participating in the next phase of change in the environment of Zhiyuan Primary School. Moving from the sky to the ground to realize our design ideals to help children in the city “see and touch” the real nature.
The Landscape Design Team：Shuyue He,Yunshan Cheng, Runan Tian, Yimeng Peng, Yihui Shi, Qining Yan, Shaomin Qi, Mingxin Chen, Ming Li, Xin Gao, Sheng Huang, Yumeng Wang, Lanbin You, Xiaoyun Yang, Min cheng, Rui Zhang, Xinyu Zhao, Xinqi Zhang, Shuoqi Wu
The Constructing Consultants: Min Zhang, Fei Wan
Project location: Leshan Road 212,Jianye District,Nanjing,Jiangsu,China