By Pari Syal
Photography: Andre J Fanthome; Courtesy Morphogenesis
Institutional design offers the ultimate exploration in design; not only are there no set demarcations; even the exploratory becomes congenial…
The brief for the architecture of JRE Group of Institutions, Delhi, was concise: “Create a new urban development that allows for infinite possibility and flexibility, yet defines the academic settlement.” Responding to this via a somewhat dense urban collage, derived from local climatic conditions, and responding to it holistically, Delhi-based architect firm Morphogenesis spearheaded a master plan that would foster a socio-cultural (with integrated academics at its core) built environment akin to a city.
Divided into three broad zones - public (academic), semi-public and private (residential), various morphologies were tested to achieve an optimum sense of balance of built form and open space. An overlay of these zones is the key design determinant. Modelled on sustainability, simple tenets ensure that vehicular movement is restricted along the peripheral network, while the internal shaded walkways and narrow streets are articulated by exploring the nature of traditional streets to create a pedestrian-friendly environment.
The academic block, which is part of the first phase of the master plan, is an elevated structure with a scooped out underbelly that is thermally banked to create a recreational space, which remains cool throughout the summer. The underbelly is an enclosed space, cooled by water bodies, and is approached through step-wells leading down from the corners of the building that are open for entry and exit, finished with landscape greens.
Deliberate attempt is made to define each corner of the building as a different design element so that no two corners appear identical. One of the unique features of the building is a centerpiece staircase on the Southeast inner courtyard of the building with interweaving stairs spilling out into small break out spaces at the edges. The ground floor area includes the receptions, offices and other administrative rooms; while the first and second floors are equipped with the library next to the staircase for easy access, while the third floor is dedicated to classrooms and seminar rooms. The façade is carefully designed with Jaali screens that help protect sun exposed areas in the summer months. The Jaali pattern is in the shape of louvers that closely follow the summer path of the sun across the façade. It allows natural ventilation while minimizing dust and regulates the temperatures within a 5-degree comfort range.
Passive environmental techniques help by accomplishing lower temperatures in the extreme summers. The courtyards and corridors are cooled through evaporative cooling and allow natural cross ventilation of the buildings. Vegetation further enhances evaporative cooling in the courtyard and helps insulate the roof from the direct rays of the sun.
The phase-wise expansion foresees development of the Sports Centre, Student Centre, and public facilities such as Convention Centre, auditorium and part the student section.
Overall, the morphology has, to a significant degree, established the overall patterns defined within the master plan and facilitates interdisciplinary and inter-departmental synergy.