The Whittle School & Studios is a global network of schools for 3-18 year olds, offering a truly modern and unique way of educating. Arup was the strategic engineering partner for the new Shenzhen campus – the first in Asia – with architects Renzo Piano Buildings Workshop (RPBW). Arup’s global expertise was required, and our design team worked from our London, Shanghai, Shenzhen and other offices. 

Collaborating across three core offices worldwide enabled us to be adaptable and utilise our local design expertise to enhance the final design. With staff based in close proximity to the site, any issues were solved seamlessly. Our engineering solutions looked to create a school with high levels of comfort, access to daylight and fresh air, and flexible, healthy spaces for learning.

Arup worked on both the Shenzhen and the recently opened school in Washington, D.C., and our best practices can be seamlessly passed from continent to continent. There are 36 Whittle schools planned in total, and we will be strategic engineering partner for the entire project worldwide, providing continuity and shared practice among all the projects as we go.

Rethinking educational buildings

The school's revolutionary approach to education, combined with RPBW's uncompromising visionary design and our engineering solutions delivered a building with state of the art facilities and an inspiring aesthetic. The school is made up of two buildings, each with user experience and providing the best environment for education at the heart.

An environment for learning

Our engineering solutions looked to create a school with high levels of internal comfort. Both buildings are highly daylit with access to outdoor views, as in all classrooms pupils are within 9m of the façade. To increase the open and transparent feel to the structures, all classroom walls are glass, connecting pupils and encouraging a community of collaboration. One of the major structural interventions core to the connectivity is the feature staircase which through its lightweight suspended design offers visual connection and transparency across the central atrium.

Internal comfort is also provided though the use of active chilled beams, which deliver low velocity cool air, with local controls in each classroom. Automated solar control blinds have been fitted to prevent overheating and control glare. Air quality has been designed to deliver 30% above US standard fresh air rates with outside air being highly filtered. These combined elements make it possible to achieve an optimum and comfortable environment for pupils.

Flexible, healthy spaces

To deliver the best possible teaching environment, a high level of flexibility was integral. Classrooms are adaptable with all furniture designed to move to allow rooms to be set up to suit the desired learning experience. Another important component of the furniture was the choice of materials. All materials were selected to complement a “healthy mind", with wellness promoted through the use of wood, as the human mind is proven to be calmed by natural materials.