Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Xianlin campus, Nanjing University

As I may have mentioned in an earlier post, Nanjing University actually consists of three campuses.  Jill and I are living on the original campus, whose official address is Hankou Road. A second campus at Pukou had been built in the 1990s, but is apparently now the home of Jinling College. I do not fully understand why, but at some point the university decided to build yet a third campus, which officially opened in 2009. Xianlin is located along metro line 2, and is currently the next-to-last stop to the east of Nanjing (and therefore out beyond Purple Mountain). On a sunny afternoon last week, Jill and I decided to investigate, and took the metro out there.

By the time we reached Xianlin, we were nearly the only persons still on the train. We had passed what seemed like endless rows of new building sites, including new campuses of other institutions (such as the University of Traditional Chinese Medicine). But Xianlin was still a surprise. Emerging from the train onto the above-ground platform, one can't help but be impressed.  The university itself (described as occupying 2 million square meters) stretched out about as far as the eye could see on the far side of a divided highway.  Numerous buildings are already complete and occupied, and yet more buildings are under construction.

Behind us, on the opposite side of the road and metro line, stood rows of new residential buildings, abutting a mountainside, which cranes and dump trucks continued to carve away to make room for yet more building.

The immensity of all this work takes one's breath away, but we decided to stroll for as long as we could to try to see the university up close. On entering the main gate, one encounters a broad roadway ornamented by mature plane trees transplanted here, one assumes, to synthesize with the plane-tree lane of the main campus on Hankou Road.

At the end of this vista arises Duxia Library, an immense, quite modern building that dominates the immediate landscape. (In fact, to enter one must mount a dizzying number of steps which emphasize the controlling height of the building.) I have not yet learned the architect of this structure, but the  exterior captures the eye and, through its glass-and-metal facade, announces itself as "modern." The huge building joins both round and angular units that connect over an interior courtyard.
Nearby stands another interesting building (evidently the new university museum, as we discovered by accident), which combines a glass house with adjacent metallic structures that present a rusted exterior reminiscent of the 2007 arts building of the University of Iowa.
The performing arts building is perhaps the most dazzling of the new structures.  Designed by Preston Scott Cohen, Inc., in association with Zhang Lei, the 16,000 square-meter building assertively punctuates the plain upon which the campus is laid out.  At the same time, it plays with shapes in ways that undermine everything you learned in high-school geometry.

Numerous additional structures cover the campus, and Jill and I found ourselves too tired to pursue every lane.  Nor could we identify all the buildings already erected, not to mention those still under construction or being planned. But a glimpse at the model of the entire campus as currently envisioned reveals the scope of the project, whose scale and cost challenge the imagination.
Rows of dormitories march off into the distance, and many more are apparently planned.
Spacious and attractive athletic facilities occupy a prime space in the center of campus, with academic buildings and student canteens nearby.
Entrance to the International College
Seemingly nothing has escaped the planners' attention. I already mentioned the mature plane trees transplanted onto the main road, but everywhere else one can see whole copses of mature or semi-mature trees artfully installed to help provide shade and to bring some intimacy to the enormous campus.
A copse of transplanted gingko trees
Campus lighting has also benefited from the designers' attention, with several variations of attractive light posts outlining walks.
After a couple of hours of wandering the new campus, Jill and I decided to head home—while we still had the energy! But the Xianlin campus had left a deep impression on us both, and it was clear to us that the university had invested heavily here in its future.

No comments:

Post a Comment