Pictorial: Tree Cube of Tshung Tsin Secondary School

Sekolah Menengah Tshung Tsin or Tshung Tsin Secondary School in Kota Kinabalu is a Chinese independent high school established in 1965. While it does receive some funding from the government, the school almost exclusively rely on donations from the public and fees to operate. It is one of 9 Chinese independent schools in the state of Sabah.

Located along Jalan Damai, the learning institution has undergone myriad changes over the 50 odd years since being established. A lot of these changes typically involved renovation and upgrading work across the school grounds as old facilities begin to deteriorate. None of these works involved the boldness and creativity required to create Tree Cube, the school's new administration office and centerpiece of Tshung Tsin Secondary School.

Conceptualized by renowned architectural firm Kenneth Tan Design Architects (KTDA), the firm created a new space for not only the school administrators and educators, but a nexus the students can make use of and take inspiration from as well.

Tshung Tsin Secondary School in Kota Kinabalu is a Chinese independent high school established in 1965. The Tree Cube, located where the central courtyard used to be, is the new converging point for teachers as well as student.

The Tree Cube

The Tree Cube was designed as a functional and cohesive space to incorporate offices and serve as a meeting point for faculty members and students. A generous amount of natural light is allowed to penetrate the interiors and give the space a lively and breezy atmosphere. It was completed in 2018 after one year of construction and symbolizes the nurturing component of education and the beginning of a student's journey into maturity.

On the ground floor, the space is an open and cosy space with chairs, tables and customized fixtures that create a meeting area that is unique in look and feel, especially for a school.

Right at the heart of the building the cube opens up to allow natural light into spaces that usually require additional light sources to illuminate. According the the architects, the structure depicts a tree that is rising up, up and up, finally being greeted by the open sky.

New student lockers were also installed at specific intervals that also doubles as low-rise walls to separate the inner passageway and to provide a little more privacy within the space. Such concepts were unheard of in my Sekolah Menengah days, and I'm just talking about the lockers.

The cube isn't just about letting light into space, it plays with the concept of shadows to create an ambiance that is warm and welcoming. Every detail is intentional. A dance of light and shadows.

While aesthetically pleasing and purposefully designed, the Tree Cube was created as a functional space for the faculty members. Meeting rooms, boardrooms, cosy working spaces, consultation rooms for students and parents, pantry areas as well as break rooms ensure Tree Cube is not only pleasing to the eye but a pleasant place to thrive in and do important work.

The main challenge when construction started on Tree Cube was how to keep it at a minimum as to not disrupt the approximately 2,500 students and 115 staff. Everything went smoothly and the project came to life. Tree Cube was officially launched in July 2018.

Ben Kong, Managing Director of Riverson Corporation Sdn Bhd who sits on the school's Board of Governance and a key overseer of the project says that the Tree Cube is a space students and teachers come under one harmonious space where individual expression of discovery and talent is encouraged.

"It has indeed created a certain enthusiasm and has changed the way its occupants see things. Moving forward I hope it inspires them towards the future and in a way influence a new way of thinking and approaching education," said Ben.

The Tree Cube is truly a modern masterpiece that perfectly blends design and functionality. It is inspiring and to be honest, enviable to see how such concepts such as Tree Cube are being accepted and developed to enrich and inspire the learning ecosystem. It is a standout addition to Tshung Tsin Secondary School that has made an immediate impact on both students and teachers, and will no doubt continue to do so for years and years to come.