We may often forget how much human lives are dependent on the built environment, only to be reminded in tragic times of natural disasters. Earthquakes are powerful occurrences beyond anyone's control, and they force people into a passive role as they can only observe the effects of extreme damage and casualties. The 2008 earthquake that struck Sichuan, which reached a magnitude of 8.0—almost the most powerful on the Richter scale—destroyed the cities and lives as people knew them. As part of the effort to recover from the disaster, a collective community effort has been made towards rebuilding the local elementary school in the town of Xiaoquan.
Trace Architecture Office (TAO) has designed the mega educational complex, built to resemble a micro-city within itself. The campus combines traditional and modern architectural elements by adding bamboo and wooden accents across a concrete context. Including dorms, cafeterias, classrooms, offices, and other buildings, the school will enroll 900 students to enjoy education among outdoor courtyards, plazas, playgrounds, and ponds. While the construction of the school marks a big step in recovering from the earthquake's aftermath, it simultaneously builds a mini metropolis for children to learn and feel about their built environment.