The Big Steps

The Big Steps

Interval Architects
Shenzhen, Guangdong, China | View Map
Project Year

The Big Steps

Interval Architects as Architects


Under the rapid urban development, the education need in Shenzhen gradually exceeds the current supply. The new fertility policy and education tendency also affect Chinese parents’ education vision and many different social fields as well. In March 2018, when facing the conflict between scarce land resources and surging educational needs, Shenzhen Futian District carried out the 8+1 Design Joint Exhibition programme, in which Interval Architects participated in the Hongling Secondary School campus competition.


The Red Ridge Secondary School land size 89,971 square meters, the total construction area is about 110,000 square meters. There are 54 classes in high school (2,700 students). Through the renovation of the outdoor playground and the demolition of gymnasium buildings, the school expects to meet the need of the educational reform of non-graded instruction, to maximize the public activity space for both teachers and students, while improving the original teaching functions. The site is located in the campus center (between the west side of dormitory area and the east side of the teaching building), close to the stadium. The new sport building is expected to rearrange the circulation within the campus and connects more effectively different regions.

From Closed Space to Open Space

The core concept is that sports space will no longer be a closed space, rather, an open space and be more integrated with the surrounding environment.


A 400-meter playground runway is close to the west side of the site. We designed a 22-meter tall and 135-meter long large scale steps facing the playground. The broad steps become so large that they can function as outdoor venues such as basketball courts and volleyball courts. Below the platform are indoor badminton courts, swimming pools and basketball halls etc. The enlarged scale enables this big step no longer serve as an ordinary viewing stand, but a living platform, an open exercise area, and a multi-functional space that can carry various campus cultural activities and promote the exchange between students.

The falling layers of the big step platform associate all kinds of sports venues, cultural space, and leisure space together. The volumes mutually penetrate. And the feelings generated by visual connection further encourage people’s communication. Students in community activity space can directly see the badminton field; while students who enjoy the rest time on the leisure platform can see both the basketball field, as well as the badminton field game below the platform. And students who are exercising on the runway can see the game on the basketball field.


The different levels of platform created by the large platforms can also serve as leisure platforms for students to rest, to study, to hold activities and communicate. According to the needs of campus events, the large steps are designed to be flexible to adjust. For instance, it can hold class stalls on campus open day, or be a place for the societies to play movies or perform live music, rehearse their dance etc. during non-exercising hour. The big steps can also be a space for a comprehensive cultural exchange.

Environmental linkages

In addition to the interconnectedness, the building also forms a multi-level connection with the surrounding environment. Located in the middle of the campus dormitory and teaching area, the large platforms create two east-western sheltered corridors to wind and rain, enhancing traffic links for students in these two sections. Two corridors are 15 meters and 8 meters wide respectively, with climbing walls, runways and display walls. In addition to meeting not only the traffic needs, but also sports, communication, and display space. The top floor has several corridors leading to the teaching building. This is convenient for students to reach directly above the big step platform.

The southeast corner of the building is a garden, which is rich in vegetation. To strengthen the connection between the sport space and this garden, we set up open steps and sunken courtyard on the side facing the garden. On the one hand, it breaks the original closeness of the street side of the gymnasium. On the other hand, it enhances the visibility of the garden, and extends green area of the sport space.

Structure and light

Due to the demand for large-span buildings required by the stadium, we adopted large span vierendeel trusses as structural solution. The trusses create 700-mm tall gap between each platform. The gaps introduce the natural light in and set up the ventilation. At the same time, the relationship between structure and light reflects the poetic nature of space.

(结构咨询:Billy Tse from Thornton Tomasetti Engineer, New York)


This proposal attempts to experiment on the notion of publicness, openness and flexibility. It is a successive reflection and experiment of our three educational projects in Raffles Kindergarten, 1/2 Stadium and Roller Coaster. With some regret, this programme was finally selected as a backup option. But architect Oscar Ko and Gu Yunduan hope to use this project to continuously study the space issues of campus architecture.

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