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Elegant Transformation of Dim, Old Classroom, Revival of Outdated Reading Space through Design

-Exclusive Interview with Principal Pan Chih-Hui of Hsinchu City Pei Ying Junior High School

“Teachers at Pei Ying Junior High School had looked forward to the renovated reading space of ’Design Movement on Campus’ for seven long years.” When talking about the purpose of transformation, Principal Pan Chih-hui of Pei Ying Junior High School still vividly remembers the teachers’ expectations.

Bringing back the Reading Space that Had Been Missing for 7 Years to the Campus of 2000 People

Pan Chih-hui recalls that, when she first came to Pei Ying for selection of principal a year and a half ago, she already heard many teachers “wishing” for a reading space. It turned out that the school’s old library had been torn down during renovation seven years prior. Since then, this school with over 2,300 students and teachers had not had a reading space. “After hearing the story, it lingered on my mind, but building a new library required overall planning of the campus, and I could only renovate existing space into a reading room first. Later, I saw the information on ‘Design Movement on Campus 3.0’ shared by Hsinchu City Education Department, and immediately prepared for application.”

 After fierce competition, Pei Ying emerged from a pool of applicants and was selected as one of the participating schools of “Design Movement on Campus 3.0.” With much joy, Pan led Advisor Chi Jr-gang (assistant professor at Shih Chien University), TDRI, and JHStudio X, into the two classrooms that were to be transformed. 

Turning Termite-Infested Old Classrooms into Children’s Secret Paradise for Relaxation

Pan points out that, she hoped to build the reading room at where there were most students—the two classrooms in a u-shaped area between the buildings of grades 7 and 8. To open up the originally obscured view, the school first removed the statue of Chiang Kai-shek in the u-shaped space, and then the design team removed the wall panels that connected the two buildings to draw sunlight into the buildings. Moreover, the design team also took down the parapet on the field-facing side of the classrooms and installed large Japanese wooden sliding doors with glasses, as well as building a large recreational outdoor stairway, which, in addition to drawing in sunlight, also bridged the indoor and outdoor spaces. As for the interior, the team designed LED panels where the users could freely set how many lights and what colors to turn on, so that the lighting inside could correspond to the daylight.

“During construction, I often posted the pictures of the transformation on Facebook. Anticipation of teachers and parents only grew after they saw the pictures. Vice Chair of the Parent Club told me that he felt this reading room was a secret base on campus where students could find a way to relief their stresses and connect with the outer world through reading.”

Triggering a Series of Possibilities through Transformation of Existing Space

Pan Chih-hui also reveals that Professor Ho Jen-hwang, who led the JHStudio X team, was also a parent. Although his child had already graduated, he still remembered how students had nowhere to go during recesses. This made this transformation extra special. “Professor Ho’s dedication to and expertise in design are keys to the success of this transformation.”

“Actually, this spatial transformation is not just about giving students ‘a place to go to during breaks and after school;’ this transformation has achieved greater effects than on paper. After all, when a small space can attract many teachers and students after transformation, it is possible that it triggers a series of professional empowerment and sharing, giving rise to more stories,” said Pan Chih-hui. She also hopes that the reading room is like a small rock tossed into the pond of Pei Ying Junior High School that sets off lasting ripples, creating unlimited possibilities of life on campus through a new reading space.

Pan Chih-Hui
Master of Chinese Teaching, Department of Chinese, National Kaohsiung Normal University, Doctor of Education, Department of Education and Learning Technology, National Tsing Hua University. Previously served as principal of Hsinchu Municipal Zhu Guang Junior High School, and now principal of Hsinchu City Pei Ying Junior High School.

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