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Reversing the Authoritarian Image to Turn Parade Platform into Playground for Children

-Exclusive Interview with Principal Huang Hsi-Pei of ShanFeng Waldorf School

If buildings were containers of life, campuses would be the carriers of children’s daily life. When a school’s philosophy of education changes, can the campus space also evolve and progress with time as the carrier? Since ShanFeng Elementary School in Gukeng, Yunlin, changed into an experimental elementary school of Waldorf education in 2011, this question has lingered on the mind of Principal Huang Hsi-pei.

Launching Trilogy of Renovation to Turn Campus into Park

“We launched experiments on curriculum and teaching, and made many changes to how we provide education, hoping to build a free and open school in communion with nature; however, our campus remained the traditional architectural form and campus layout,” sighed Principal Huang. Based on this observation, Huang Hsi-pei and teachers launched the trilogy of renovation for ShanFeng Waldorf School (ShanFeng): first, they planted turf on the clay of the field, building “tracks of grass” rather than the traditional PU tracks; they also planted trees around the tracks to turn the campus into a park; lastly, Huang’s attention turned to the unused and abandoned parade platform at the center of the tracks.

“We had some people visiting us from Germany, and they asked me: ‘Do you train soldiers here? Why do you have a big parade platform?’” laughed Huang. “Actually, according to the philosophy of Waldorf education, the principal is not someone who gives commands from high above, and that was why we had abandoned the parade platform for a long time. Therefore, the last installment of our campus renovation trilogy was to functionally renovate the platform, rather than just beautification like painting.”

Unfortunately, the renovation of platform was not a pressing need, and based on past cases, it seemed unlikely for the project to successfully apply for government fund. It was at this time Huang saw the official letter of “Design Movement on Campus” executed by TDRI under the commission of Ministry of Education, and his instinct told him that the last piece of the puzzle for completing the trilogy was right in front of his eyes.

Visiting Campus and Community to Transform Parade Platform into Crested Serpent Eagle

If ShanFeng were the one that discovered the last piece of the puzzle, then TDRI and the design team “Wooyo” were the best partners that helped ShanFeng to fit this piece of puzzle into the landscape of the campus—after ShanFeng proposed its needs and was successfully selected to “Design Movement on Campus,” TDRI invited a number of design teams to inspect the campus. The design team that ultimately emerged from a pool of candidates, “Wooyo,” visited the campus and nearby community to fully immerse in the natural environment surrounding ShanFeng, while also listening to the ideas of children and community residents regarding the renovation of the parade platform, and proposed the common local imagery of crested serpent eagle in the end to turn this abandoned parade platform into a multifunctional “wind-rain” classroom for students and teachers to have classes and take breaks.

Thinking back, the scenes came back to Huang as if they took place only yesterday. “At first, we only hoped that the renovated parade platform would be a space where children were willing to go to and teachers could relax and open up. As for what exactly to do, we had no concrete ideas. So, we are very thankful that TDRI helped us with the selection of the design team, and that Wooyo came up with the imagery of crested serpent eagle after careful inspection of the campus and community. We could feel that both TDRI and Wooyo were very dedicated to this renovation.”

After the three sides confirmed on the renovation concept, Wooyo came in with its construction partners for the renovation: structurally, Wooyo kept the original structure of the parade platform, and installed waterproof fabrics in the color of the chest feathers of crested serpent eagle around the platform; when the fabrics are opened up, the parade platform will resemble a magnificent, wing-spreading crested serpent eagle in the forest. On the wall of the platform, Wooyo added a rock climbing wall, so that children could try their hands at “rock climbing” at school, which was not a sport the local people were familiar with. Wooyo also hoped that the laughter and joyous noise made by children when they played there would transform the serious image of the platform.

Huang Hsi-Pei
Principal of ShanFeng Waldorf School in Yunlin, and experimental review committee member of Changhua, Yunlin, and Chiayi. Published books including “50 Teaching Tips in 7 Major Disciplines” and “e-Scavenger Hunt.”

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