Compiled by Anuradha K R
Photography: Courtesy the architects
Ponni and Oscar Concessao duo of OCI Architects, Chennai design the new blocks of Lawrence School in Ootacamund, befitting its lofty historical background, spanning almost a century and a half.
Construction activities in Ootacamund, which stands at a height of 7200 ft above MSL (Mean Sea Level)are guided by standards, set for hill towns. Adhering to these norms, structuresare planned along the contour and bottlenecks of an irregular plot on a flat terrain with minimum cuts and fills. They are located on southern slopes, as leeward side development reduces gusts of the speeding, cold winds in India, facilitating maximum solar exposure.
The new school building rises to these pragmatics, with its main block and shading devices oriented to maximise daylight penetration and minimise additional heat gain, thereby reducing artificial lighting and HVAC loads significantly. Sloped& tiled RCC slab roof, hipped on four sides helps in achieving anchorage, bracing and continuity and ensures proper drainage.
Building blocks are positioned such that no block casts a shadow on another. Longitudinal nature of the structure, with a ratio of 2.5:1.0, with small openings on the longer side and none on the smaller side contribute to seismic stability and so do the small, symmetrical windows.
Vernacular architecture drives the aesthetics, which in turn is driven by climatic conditions, locally available materials, environmental features and heritage. Walls are finished with wire-cut bricks and the edges and corners of walls are plastered with defined borders over the superstructure or supported with pilasters for extra-stability.
The main building houses academic, dormitory, staff-housing and dining spaces, with small courtyards interspersed between them and the structure blends effortlessly with the prevalent structures on site.45 acre built-up area amidst a 750 acre campus, comprising pristine forests is testimony to the kind of lung-space the young minds of the school are blessed with.
Solar panels for water heating, recycling programme for plastic& glass and on-site treatment of organic waste by means of composting and worm-farming serve as ‘living laboratories’ for students in the sciences, building arts and environment stewardship.A school building that leads by example, quite literally!