In this school project in Ahmedabad, Apurva Amin Architects designs a commensurate structure for the educational culture that this institute embodies.
‘School is boring!’
‘Schools kill creativity!’
‘Schools take the fun out of learning!’
Text By Himali Kothari
Photographs Samir Pathak Courtesy
Call them excuses or call them complaints – they are often heard in the grey classrooms in matchbox like schools.
When Nirma Education & Research Foundation (NERF) started visualising Nirma Vidyavihar, they wanted to make sure that these words were never even whispered in their institute.
Nirma Vidyavihar would emphasize value-based education. The young students would be motivated to exceed their potential. At the same time social values would be inculcated to channel their potential as much towards the overall good as towards their individual success. They approached Ahmedabad-based Apurva Amin Architects to give a physical form to their vision. Their brief to the design team was simple – ‘Create an environment that is student-friendly.’
Nirma Vidyavihar is located in the Bodakdev area of Ahmedabad, a dense residential neighbourhood. The first challenge for the design team was to place the school in an atmosphere that would be a haven amidst this concrete chaos.
Low buildings have been planned within the green landscape to maintain the openness of the space. A long, narrow rectangular pond hemmed with planters bursting with hues of pinks and crimsons is part of the outdoor landscape and trees scattered across the grounds provide shade for when education moves outdoors.
Considering the institute’s different approach to education, it was important that the same be reflected in its buildings. At Apurva Amin Architects, a philosophy that is adhered to is that all elements, functional and otherwise, must justify the projects’ requirement. They wanted the design to follow an austere geometry that would mirror the dignity of the institution. How, then, to inject it with a vibe that would befriend the students? The team decided to interweave playful elements within the structure that would soften the edges and lend its character some vivacity.
One such element is the jigsaw puzzle wall – a favourite with the architectural team. One expansive length of the building’s concrete façade has been broken down into a jigsaw puzzle. Jigsaw pieces crafted out of colourful metal have been inlaid into this wall, interspersed with jigsaw-piece shaped cut-outs.
From the exterior, this mural brings in an element of fun into the school grounds. The cut-outs in the wall bring natural light inside the building and also create jigsaw shaped shadows on its floors, a design element in its own right.
Another interesting aspect is of the suspended bridges which are present inside the building. The design team was clear that a school that was looking to stand apart from the usual could not be planned with something as mundane as lengthy corridors connecting classrooms. They brain-stormed and developed a concept of suspending bridges from the ceiling that would flow from one classroom to another. The zigzagging bridges add a touch of play to the movement from one class to another, usually a sluggish event for students everywhere.
The classrooms all open out into smaller courtyards providing the option for a change in the setting when required. A large curvilinear wall with a colourful mosaic mural, a ribbon of bright orange stone amidst the stark black granite and the elliptical staircase connecting the floors are some other standout features that define the character of Nirma Vidyavihar.
The use of contrasting colours, the difference in the texture of the materials used, the playful vibe laced into the dignified serenity of the institute…all work towards creating a balanced environment, an environment that manifests the institute’s educational philosophy.