we continue our annual TOP 10 round up of the year’s most talked about projects with a look at ten schools and educational buildings that proved popular with our readers in 2020. each of the selected schemes considers educational architecture a powerful tool for stimulating creativity, as well as enhancing concentration, motivation, and understanding. whether it’s a kindergarten, high school, or university, the environment in which we study directly influences how knowledge is absorbed. with this theme in mind, 2020 saw a wide range of groundbreaking educational facilities and school buildings completed across the globe, from senegal to vietnam.


take a look at the TOP 10 schools and educational stories featured on designboom over the past 12 months, including projects by some of the field’s most recognizable names such as MAD architects and kazuyo sejima. see the list in full below.



1 – yuecheng courtyard kindergarten in beijing by MAD architects

MAD architects yuecheng courtyard kindergarten
image by arch-exist



designed by MAD architects, the ‘yuecheng courtyard kindergarten’ in beijing serves as a pre-school education space for 390 children aged from one to six years old. MAD explains that the new building takes the form of a floating roof that appears as a ‘martian landscape of sorts’, enticing children to run, play, and interact with it and each other. ‘a kindergarten doesn’t always have to offer complex hardware or fixtures, but it must always make kids feel freedom and love — something that leads them to endless possibilities,’ says ma yansong, the founder of MAD.



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2 – fass school and teachers’ residence in senegal by toshiko mori architect

toshiko mori completes oval-shaped fass school and teachers’ residence in remote senegal
image © iwan baan



designed by toshiko mori architect, the ‘fass school and teachers’ residence’ can serve up to 300 students from ages five through ten in a remote region of senegal. the oval-shaped construction comprises four classrooms and two flexible spaces arranged around an interior courtyard. its design takes cues from vernacular precedents, while local, traditional skills and materials are utilized in its construction, similar to the ‘thread’ cultural center which the new york-based studio designed a few years back.


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3 – nepal school extension by supertecture

supertecture uses donated bricks from earthquake ruins to extend a school in nepal
image courtesy of supertecture



after a severe earthquake hit nepal in 2015, supertecture was invited by the PATRIZIA foundation to design a school extension in the himalaya mountain village of dhoksan. using architecture as a tool to transform and empower society, the project embraces circular construction methods by using donated materials from the buildings that were left devastated after the earthquake. 


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4 – osaka university of arts building in japan by kazuyo sejima

kazuyo sejima osaka art universityimage © vincent hecht



designed by kazuyo sejima, this concrete and glass structure in japan serves as the arts and science faculty building of the osaka university of arts. forming part of the school’s campus, the building comprises three gently undulating concrete canopies, which continue internally to form staircases and circulation routes. the project has been documented by photographer vincent hecht.


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5 – ranwas school in vanuatu by CAUKIN studio

ranwas school caukin studio
image by katie edwards



CAUKIN studio teamed up with the ranwas village community to design and build this school and library. sited amid the jungle landscape of the south pacific island of vanuatu, the project was conceived in response to cyclone pam, which in 2015 caused devastation to the school’s previous buildings. after only eight weeks of construction, the finished design combines a durable, cyclone-resistant timber frame, with woven bamboo cladding, and a poly-carbonate and metal roofing sheet.


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6 – bó mon preschool in vietnam by kientruc o

a soft, undulating roof defines 'bó mon' preschool in vietnam by kientruc o
image by hoang le



kientruc o designed the ‘bó mon’ preschool to introduce a station of connectivity to a rural region of vietnam. the scheme serves as a prototype for future community projects by charitable and non-profit organizations. both functional and sustainable, the space introduces an exciting atmosphere, which encourages creativity among its occupants.


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7 – winter visual arts building in pennsylvania by steven holl architects

image by paul warchol 



this year, steven holl architects completed a new building on the historic campus of franklin & marshall, a liberal arts college in lancaster, pennsylvania. appearing as raised pavilion, the distinctive shape of the ‘winter visual arts building’ is derived from the campus’ oldest elements — its trees. designed to be the center of creative life on campus, the building brings students together to collaborate on a variety of arts projects.


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8 – jinlong prefab school shenzhen by crossboundaries

crossboundaries completes prefabricated jinlong school in only 13 monthsimage by wu qingshan



in january, crossboundaries completed a prefabricated school that took just 13 months to realize. the 36-classroom school is sited within the newly established pingshan district in the metropolis of shenzhen. with the design, the architects sought to not only maximize the potential of prefabricated architecture, but also to realize a project that carried a significant social impact. the multi-functional structure was constructed in less than half the time as a building of an equivalent scale.


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9 – yawara nursery in japan by kengo kuma and associates 

image © kawasumi・kobayashikenji photograph office



kengo kuma and associates (KKAA), the firm led by architect kengo kuma, completed a wooden nursery school in hokkaido — the northernmost of japan’s main islands. the project, titled ‘yawara nursery’, is located on a grassy plain in hokuryu, a town known for having the country’s largest sunflower field. this context informed the project’s ‘sunflower geometry’ that is apparent in the shape of the building.



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10 – kaleidoscope kindergarten in china by SAKO architects

colorful glass decorates this kaleidoscopic kindergarten in china by SAKO architectsimage by creatAR images



SAKO architects used 483 pieces of polychromatic glass to decorate this kindergarten in tianshui, china. the studio applied the colorful elements above the glass doors and windows, as well as the handrails of corridors and stairs, creating a kaleidoscopic effect across the otherwise minimal white building.


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see designboom’s TOP 10 stories archive: