A British-style Campus with a Lingnan Touch

Blending Chinese and British styles: Dulwich’s new campus in Zhuhai

Zhuhai Dulwich International High School is located in the Hengqin district of Zhuhai, known as the “City of Gardens and Hundred Islands”. It is an all-British international high school with a long history as a prestigious British private school originating from the famous Dulwich College in London.

As architecture consultants and interior designers for this project, VIRTUARCH blends the two styles of Dulwich and traditional Lingnan architecture to create a culturally integrated and sustainable campus. It provides students with an international campus environment that bridges the gap between their future overseas study and their roots in China.

The Chinese garden element in the courtyard communicating with the Christmas tree in the lobby, December 2021

Creating a Great School Campus

When VIRTUARCH started its assignment, the Developer had already commissioned an architecture office to develop the project. However, it could not fulfill the requirements of both functionality and student experience and was forecasted to overrun the budget significantly. Therefore, VIRTUARCH started the process of clarifying the user requirements, optimizing layouts and transforming the building into a great learning landscape for the students of DULWICH in Zhuhai. Facades were harmonized with the building’s functions, courtyards, terraces and voids were introduced to connect inside and outside spaces as well as the different floors.

Blending Cultures and Creating Multi-dimensional Spaces

The design of the campus is inspired by local Lingnan elements and combined them with Dulwich’s red brick walls to create a cultural connection with the English heritage of Dulwich. VIRTUARCH arranges and combines ancient and natural materials with modern materials and techniques, giving the space has a strong cultural imprint and a humanistic approach.

In a typical VIRTUARCH approach, the building is designed to provide the students with the best possible learning environment, while giving a multitude of experiences and connections between the different functions. Open stairs connect the different floors, indoor and outdoor areas are treated as a continuous space, and students shall experience their building as a cooperative learning environment preparing them for the work environment of the future.

Connecting spaces

Achieving this level of interaction in a highly compacted, functionally optimized and cost-efficient building is certainly one of the qualities VIRTUARCH is mastering. 

A World of Choices

The dining room, located on the first floor of the campus, is an elemental design accent that plays with cultural references. Many Lingnan elements were used in the design of the space, combining gray brick walls, wooden elements, floral tiles, and gray terrazzo. At the same time, the culturally influenced dining hall offers students a global and diverse cuisine, providing them with an international dining environment in a space that promotes communication and multicultural integration among students.

Dining hall with different food stations

Linking inside and outside, connecting different floors: The dining area is also a cooperation space for students

A World of Specialization

In addition, VIRTUARCH has created a state-of-the-art facility for an international school campus, including a theatre, auditoriums, a black box theatre, recording studios, music rooms and rehearsal rooms for performing arts, gymnasium, science labs, art classrooms and library. The highly diversified and specialized interiors provide a positive environment for inquiry-led learning and multi-disciplinary cooperation by placing interdisciplinary areas of science, art, research, design, and engineering in proximity. Such environments have been shown to foster the development of multifaceted solutions by students, supporting teamwork and collaboration while providing opportunities for individual learning and leadership.

VIRTUARCH realizes its vision of providing students with a wide range of meaningful programs and activities and fostering a cultural environment characterized by tolerance, respect, and international thinking.

Theatre of Dulwich Zhuhai

Smart Use of Color to Create a Comfortable Environment

VIRTUARCH uses a wide range of local building materials in the design of the campus to highlight the texture of the materials and the spatial structure reflected in their arrangement. In the color scheme, the red color that symbolizes Dulwich and at the same time is a traditional color of Chinese architecture is combined with the natural color elements such as “green”, “gray” and “blue” of Lingnan, forming another connection through the architecture.

The campus façade is dominated by red bricks, while the spacious and bright lobby is light gray with staggered wood paneling to enhance the level of space. VIRTUARCH uses color to lead through space and functions. The lobby and public areas use more green, gray and wood Lingnan elements, which are simple and natural materials interacting with the green exterior spaces of the South China city of Zhuhai. In the science and technology teaching area, dark blue and gray colors give the space a more abstract and futuristic feel that matches the atmosphere of science and technology exploration. And in the art education room, vibrant and lively yellow and red area added inspiring the students to use their creativity through the dynamic color combination.

Science and technology room


Eco-campus, Creating an Interactive Environment

For VIRTUARCH, the outdoor landscape is a very important aspect. Based on the existing planning space, VIRTUARCH continues its eco-campus concept and further enriches and expands the outdoor environment.

The site of Zhuhai Dulwich International High School is in the pleasant climate and beautiful landscape of Zhuhai, which is full of relaxation and tranquility, making people feel the simplicity of nature and tranquility. VIRTUARCH transfers this beauty to the campus design, focusing on the interaction between indoor and outdoor greenery, using light and shadow to create the feeling that “when the wind blows the leaves and flowers, the light and shadows cloud the landscape”.

In the Zhuhai Dulwich International High School Campus, design related to natural ecology is mainly presented from the following aspects: Designing the campus with attention to nature and sustainability as a key element, creating natural outdoor learning environments, bringing greenery inside the building, and create views from classrooms to green spaces and natural landscapes. The commitment to nature is showcased by the roof gardens that highlight our Hengqin Campus. Each floor of the building has direct access to a sky garden, enabling all students and staff to benefit from frequent connections with nature. The courtyard gardens are designed to echo the traditional campus layouts of schools and universities in the UK. Benefitting from Zhuhai’s subtropical climate, a carefully selected mix of seasonal plants allows the students to experience the seasons; flowers bloom, leaves change colours, fruits and seeds can be harvested throughout the year. Students will learn to live in harmony with nature in an outstanding environment that brings health and developmental benefits.

In March 2022, Zhuhai Dulwich International High School received the LEED Gold Certification for sustainable educational projects.

VIRTUARCH’s design reflects the school’s motto: building bridges to the world. The Hengqin campus is purposed-designed and built to be a sustainable, innovative and sensitive flagship for international schools in the Greater Bay Area.

Project Name: Dulwich International High School, Zhuhai

Location: Zhuhai, Guangdong Province, P.R. China

GFA: 19,600㎡

Project Time line: 2019 – 2021

Service: Architecture Consulting, Interior Design, Landscaping Design, Design Review, Site Services

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