International Jail of Beijing?

Located on 10 Anhua Street, Shunyi, Beijing, China, the International School of Beijing is the center of beauty in the district. Boasting elegance with its size and color, visitors are often captivated.

Nonetheless, many people who have seen and been inside the colossal and monolithically gray building may have wondered, or, have noticed, that it is oftentimes hard to distinguish the school building from jail.

Even among ISB students, the mystery behind the building’s elaborate structures remains unknown. Leo X., a sophomore who has attended ISB for two years, takes note that “the complicated structure of ISB really makes it hard for students to get around, mainly because corridors are narrow and boxed in. The amount of students in the hallways just adds to the problem. The school sometimes reminds me of a jail”. Chauncey L., also a sophomore and a returning student to ISB after attending WAB for a year, offers a two-way viewpoint: “People at ISB tend to say the school looks like a hospital, but students at WAB have said that ISB looks like a jail.”

With the overwhelming complaints regarding ISB’s banal architecture, it is indeed questionable to ask who built the building and why it was built the way it is.

It is therefore natural to examine the history of the building itself. After a series of investigations, the prevalent conundrum has found its light to answer. Perkins+Will, a private global architecture and design firm established in 1935 designed ISB’s blueprints and completed the 581,300 square foot colossal building in 2001. The firm has received countless awards in the past. For instance it has won the Architecture Firm Award from the AIA, Green health Champion for Change award, COTE Top 10 Green Projects, and the 2010 National Building Museum’s Honor Award for Civic Innovation, which Perkins+Will was its first recipient.

Perkins+Will also designed various notable buildings. The Boeing International Headquarters, Duke University Fuqua School of Business, University of Pennsylvania’s Biomedical Research Building, and the University of Southern California, are few of the many structures the firm has modeled.

Although many students voice their dismay towards the school’s visually unappealing buildings, such an arrangement has underlying purposes and advantages. According to Perkins+Will‘s website, “with distinct zones and swing spaces for enrollment enlargements, current students do not feel overwhelmed by the larger facilities. The careful location of shared spaces also enables the school to function as a community center during off hours”. The firm additionally comments on ISB’s temples and traditional Chinese decorations: “Through its modern interpretation of Chinese urban and residential planning, the school is a learning tool for the local culture by using the Chinese tradition of courtyards and processions to unify the upper, lower and middle schools”.

Students’ responses vary upon finding out about the architectural integrities of ISB. Amy L., a sophomore in her seventh year attending ISB, expressed her delight when hearing about this news, “I have always wondered about the mysteries behind ISB’s mazy corridors and facilities; it feels amazing to find something new about our school!” Other students were rather startled to hear the news. BC H.(9), a new student at ISB questions, “We see other buildings that the firm has built- flamboyantly decorated on the facades, but what happened to our gray screens?”