Friday, April 20, 2012

Adding Value through Design

By Ar. Yatin Pandya
Photographs Courtesy: FOOTPRINTS E.A.R.T.H.
India First Foundation (IFF) School Campus
To educate, is to develop mentally, morally and aesthetically. Holistic learning therefore is about information, exposure, analysis, understanding and exploration. With the onus more on learning than teaching, how can the built environment contribute to the same? 

By overlaying spatial installations to the basic physical envelop, the India First Foundation (IFF) school campus in Karjat, Maharashtra, makes an attempt at interactive education by inculcating the habit of enquiry, and raising the level of exposure. Working on the design and architectural layout of this school, I realized that as a responsible architect, I could accomplish its core objective via interactive installations and a series of animated spaces that would involve the students’ constant participation. 

The dining hall is animated with installations of spice route with live samples of fifty one spices from around the world as well as representation of navigation vessels of the time.

Patina wall installations and LED light hangings depict over twenty cuisines of India with information about their ingredients, calorie count and nutritional value.

Morphing the institutional campus into an interactive and inspiring learning environment, we carefully designated various interactive tools like multimedia 3D displays, colour symbolism, vernacular art, tribal an traditional motifs, digital crafts, installations, wall panels and the like to extend beyond the staid textbook format. With their dynamic formats for higher interactivity, and in order to sustain interest, ease in comprehension not only promotes first-hand understanding of subject matter, but goes beyond to inculcate lateral thinking.

To cite a few examples: The open-to-air amphitheatre is transformed into an open book on space sciences by turning spatial elements like floor, amphitheatre steps, walls, lighting elements and landscaping into thematic spatial installations.

           The centre of the circular amphitheatre is punctuated with a Sundial. The floor landscape is defined by twelve radiating stone pedestals alternated by the soft grass cover. 

Another example is of experiencing the three seasons where three amphitheatre steps with natural stone rendering each in colours of Red, Green, Black depict summer, monsoon and winter respectively. Augmenting this is the landscape especially catering to the study of the seasons. 

In yet another, lighting elements are designed in steel and glass with the scientific, at-a-glance, information on the solar system etched and digitally printed. As various mediums intermingle as carriers of the message, digital craft is juxtaposed with vernacular art. Symbolism has its fair share too - water body in front of the stage portrays the world atlas with five fountains representing the five continents. Obelisks on the sides of the stage designed as tall pyramid-shaped light features are modern day abstractions of the ‘Dipstambh’ of temple complexes in Maharashtra region.

Each stone pedestal has hand carved, laser burnt and inlaid stone and steel elements representing the twelve ‘Rashis’ (zodiac signs) with accurate depiction of constellation of stars as per the zodiac calendar.

        200ft long opaque parapet wall with terracotta backdrop and white rendering, in local Warli painting tradition depicts the evolution of the world from ‘Hiranyagarbh’ to Aryan village to epics like Ramayan and Mahabharat, invasions, colonization as well as contemporary world icons. 

Likewise, other open, semi-covered and enclosed spaces of the campus have also been animated with educational installations. School corridors have live installations of games and puzzles along path ways, converting otherwise mundane areas into informative, entertaining and interactive zones.

Natural light streaming into the corridor

Game Corner in Corridor Photograph by: Leo Stride

Special features are also included to cater to widespread knowledge and sustained interest. An exhibition hall called ‘Global Village’ has well researched 192 panels, one each on the countries of the world carrying at-a-glance information about each country’s national flag, demography, currency, people, flora, fauna, architecture etc. These panels are hung like drooping foliage on a free standing metal stand like abstract installation. The ceiling is matt black with linear slits of LED lighting illuminating the whole space from the ceiling. These lighting slits are the datelines (hour lines) of the world atlas corresponding to GMT. Thus they not only become lighting and visual features but also informative in nature. Glossy flooring reflects this lighting and enhances its spread. The sixty feet long wall creates the backdrop of faces and attire of people from around the world, depicting the diversity of culture and places. 3D self-lit cubical protrusions from this plane depict photos and information on hundred personalities of the world from diverse fields that have left their mark on humanity. These may serve as role models to the young students and inspire. Touch screen kiosks and remote switches make their operations interactive as well.

Global Village - Exhibition Hall

Class Signage
Similarly, every classroom and laboratory is provided with wall installations based on the specific curriculum and course contents of the given standard.  These installations in the form of sixteen feet long panels each consisting of models, charts, puzzles, kinetic sculptures, digital displays and DIY experiments – offer value addition to a neutral space transcending it into inspiring learning and teaching tool in addition to its visual interest elements. Such panels serve as stimuli to trigger initiatives from students and teachers alike and help inculcate the spirit of learning amongst the pupils through self indulgence and exploration. A much needed dimension in true value-based education.

Classroom Panel for Std-1

Classroom Panel for Std-5

Classroom Panel for Std-8

Classroom Panel for Std-10

Yatin Pandya is an author, activist, academician, researcher as well as a successful practicing architect from India with his firm FOOTPRINTS E.A.R.T.H. - for Environment, Architecture, Research, Technology and Housing.

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