Press Releases September 10, 2021

Shanghai Studio Reveals Design for Duke Kunshan University Campus Phase II

Kunshan, China
Bird's Eye View of Duke Kunshan University Campus Phase II

Perkins&Will has revealed designs for the second phase of Duke Kunshan University as an elegant blend of nature and architecture reflecting the natural context and local culture of Kunshan. The design aims to compliment the University’s ethos in education, rationalism, and humanism through creating a series of state-of-the-art spaces for living and learning.

The new Liberal Arts campus contains 22 buildings and a total building area of 153,182.5 m2, including key public buildings, namely a Library, Student Community Centre, the Wuhan-Duke Research Institute plus an Administration Building and Recreation Center. Perkins&Will led urban planning, architecture, interiors, and wayfinding for the campus which is set to open to students in August 2022.

Duke Kunshan University Campus Phase II
Open Contextual History

The campus is designed to be open, inclusive, and dynamic. Located adjacent to the existing phase I complex, the new development is designed both as a centerpiece and as a key link to potential future phases. The masterplan of the 189,334 m2 site draws inspiration from the layout of Duke University’s historic campus in Durham, North Carolina, establishing a visible dialogue between locations and academic aspirations on either side of the world.

At its core, the new campus aims to weave traces and textures of the traditional Jiangnan water villages into the campus’s identity. In this way creating a synergy between the communities of Kunshan, Duke and a sense of harmony created between the built environment and nature. A series of generous outdoor green spaces provide visual relief and encourage students from diverse cultures to engage with one another.

"The new campus adopts multiple sustainable technologies to pursue our vision of a low-carbon campus. We aim to obtain LEED certifications for all buildings in Phase II. I believe all students and staff will enjoy a healthier, greener, more innovative and more beautiful home."

Ning Bai, General Manager of the Duke Kunshan University Campus Phase II

Jiangnan Vernacular

The architecture of the project reimagines the staggering volumes and colors of the Jiangnan village vernacular, to create a ‘solid sculpture’ through the modeling and interplay of volumes. Facades are clad in stone, metal, and glass to allow variation in texture and color. The masterplan and organization of the campus adopt an educational module which is not focused on single buildings, but groups of buildings to create a series of formal and informal public spaces throughout the new campus.

Community Center
Duke Spirit

At the focal point of the masterplan is the Community Centre. This key building is situated prominently on the central axis of the main entrance. The center is easily accessible by foot within a 3-minute walk from all main academic spaces. The building brings diverse programs such as dining, events and performance spaces, a careers advice center and a clinic under one roof. This will be the center of life for the entire University. The Duke spirit is expressed within the internal spaces through color. The ‘Duke Blue’ runs throughout coloring key features and expressing the unique identity of the University and its history.

Center for Knowledge

The library presents itself as a strong and elegant container of knowledge at the intersection of the two main landscape axes. The simple monolithic exterior frames the vibrant and diverse programs within. The library collection and reading areas, exhibition spaces, classrooms, meeting rooms and a Chinese tearoom are arranged around a tall central atrium. This naturally lit four-level space serves as both the main circulation spine and an open gallery.

The expansive Recreation Centre, located next to the halls of residence and the community center, supports a wide range of indoor and outdoor activities. The center provides a competition level basketball hall, swimming pool, gymnasium, running track and climbing wall. These facilities create a year-round hub for students and staff accessible and visible to all within the campus.

Dormitory Courtyard
Neighborhood Courtyards

To create a sense of neighborhood the undergraduate residence halls have been designed as a series of low-rise courtyards. These buildings are arranged as open courts to connect the residential quarters to the various functions of the campus. These interlocking courtyard spaces encourage interaction between undergraduates and foster interdisciplinary collaboration. Classrooms and common areas line the edges of the landscaped courts. The post-graduate hall, which sits to one side of the undergraduate program is designed around a central atrium stair. This block, for mature students, offers more privacy and individual spaces for independent research and study, overlooking the green quadrangles to north and south.


The Duke Kunshan Phase II campus is designed to promote holistic health and wellbeing. As a world-class university, Duke Kunshan University is committed to actively reducing carbon emissions and promoting carbon neutrality. The new campus reserves almost a third of its land area as greenery and outdoor spaces. Of this area, 90% of the green spaces utilize rainwater irrigation to reduce water use on site. The design of the new campus is driven by the goal to create a harmonious foundation between the tradition and the future of both Duke and Kunshan and to celebrate the balance of man and nature in education.