Duke Kunshan University is a collaborative venture between Duke University and Wuhan University which offers a range of world-class programs providing a collaborative learning opportunity for Chinese and international students. Established in 2013, the university has hosted students since 2014.
As part of a design contest, a partnership of LandDesign and Gensler brought up a design solution that created an understanding between the waterscape and the natural habitat, which won them the competition. Thus, establishing a sense of harmony between nature and the built environment.
Situated in Eastern China, Duke Kunshan University sits harmoniously around a man-made lake. Taking inspiration from historically and culturally revered Jiangnan water village, a well-watered and fertile town reputed as Heaven on Earth, the design adheres to the symbolic interactionism of the local culture’s relationship with water. Keeping water as the prime landscape element, the designers created ecological systems reflecting nature’s functioning. The ecological systems comprise waterscapes that harvest rainwater, control stormwater, and an underground filtration system that purifies rainwater and aids in controlling water quality for irrigation.
This region of China, in particular, undergoes inundation problems; thus, stormwater management systems play a pivotal role in the campus landscape to mitigate the crisis and simultaneously use the stormwater.
The 4-acre water ecosystem is at the heart of the design as the campus is organised around it, and its spatial changes respond to seasonal changes. Overall, it embarks the users on a unique learning experience.
Comprising six building faculties over a 40-acre vast terraced landscape, facilities are scattered around different settings perfectly suitable for different learning conditions. The interconnection of the facilities via bridges paves the way for social encounters, helping build communities across all disciplines. The spaces around facilities have been designed to create a peaceful learning environment for the students and faculties to have a cosy and collaborative learning experience. The spatial organisation of the buildings is interplayed with the balance of formal and informal spaces throughout the campus.
Following the legacy of the Phase I complex, Phase II of Duke Kunshan University, a sustainable green campus project expansion has been commissioned to be designed (2021) by Perkins&Will. Phase II concatenates the nature and culture of Jiangnan and Duke University and connects the university’s past, present and future; accentuating strong groundwork for future constructions. The form of the building designs was highly inspired by the traditional vernacular architecture of Jiangnan water villages, which integrates native cultures with modern geometric volumes and colours. The buildings are clad with stone, metal, and glass curtain walls to harness daylighting. The trademark of Duke Blue is reflected in the internal spaces highlighting the main architectural elements and signifying the history and identity of Duke University.
As campus life and student experience have been fundamental aspects of Duke Kunshan university, A human-centric approach has been undertaken in designing the campus, as the primary focus has been community health. Classrooms have air filtration systems that bring in the fresh air and monitor Carbon dioxide bolstering the air quality of the internal spaces. The campus premise has blossomed with Oxygen generating plants that cover up 32% of the site area. On all campus areas, indoor smoking is strictly prohibited, adhering to maintaining healthy air quality levels. VOC emission levels are kept in mind while selecting decorative materials to ensure it is as low as possible to prevent detrimental health effects.
Apart from nature-integrated water systems, the campus also considers the transportation of users moving to and from campus. It provides bus lines that transport facilities from the university to Kunshan’s desired point of interest, reducing single-car usage. Bicycle stations are scattered around the campus precinct to encourage students to explore the community in an eco-friendly manner.
The buildings across the precinct also incorporate energy-saving technology, which helps reduce the carbon footprint of essential operations such as transportation, lighting, hot water, and MEP systems. The building complexes also use daylighting to integrate light within the building; its floor-to-ceiling glazed curtain walls help to optimize natural light into the interior spaces and portray outside views, reducing energy consumption. In areas where lighting control is essential, dimmers adjust the lighting levels according to their preferences.
High-efficiency water-saving fixtures are installed throughout the campus, which help to minimize water usage by 38%. Photovoltaic cells cover 675 sq.m of the roof’s surface, capable of generating 470,000 Kilowatt hours of renewable energy per year, enough to fully operate the University’s water heating systems.
Duke Kunshan University is proudly the first Chinese University to be certified by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) programs. Duke Kunshan University’s devotion to its green design and construction guarantees its construction practices and future renovations comply with sustainable policies and meet campus goals for energy efficiency. The university is also well known as an absorbent “sponge campus”, where every drop of rain from above is absorbed into the landscape and stored, purified to be reused, and recycled.
– Gensler (2023). Duke Kunshan University. [online]. https://www.gensler.com/projects/duke-kunshan-university Accessed date: [12 June 2023].
– Architect. Duke Kunshan University. [online]. (Last updated: 3 Nov 2016)
https://www.architectmagazine.com/project-gallery/duke-kunshan-university_o Accessed date: [12 June 2023].
– Duke Kunshan University. Duke Kunshan Campus receives LEED Certification Recognizing Sustainable Design. [online]. (Last updated: March 24, 2016)
Accessed date: [12 June 2023].
– Faithfulgould. First University Campus to Earn LEED Accreditation in China. [online]. (Last updated: April 4, 2016)
Accessed date: [12 June 2023]
– Civil + Structural Engineer media. With Phase II Just Beginning, Phase I Designers Discuss the Ultra Modern Project in Eastern China. [online]. (Last updated: September 1, 2019)
Accessed date: [12 June 2023]
– Archdaily. Perkins&Will Reveals Design of Duke Kunshan University Campus’s Second Phase in China. [online]. (Last updated: 01 October 2021)
Accessed date: [12 June 2023]
– 1. Perkins&Will [Architectural Render]
– 2. LandDesign, With a four-acre water ecosystem as the central landscape element, the campus is also organized around flexible public spaces, ecological design and spatial character that responds to seasonal changes. [Photograph]
– 3. Perkins&Will, Shanghai Studio Reveals Design for Duke Kunshan University Campus Phase II [Architectural Render] https://perkinswill.com/news/shanghai-studio-reveals-design-for-duke-kunshan-university-campus-phase-ii/
– 4. Wang, Q (2020) Students and faculty from Duke Kunshan University’s campus scattered amid the coronavirus outbreak [Photograph]