The Gujarat Knowledge Centre is a part of the Knowledge Precinct of Ahmedabad and has been designed by Ahmedabad-based HCP Design, Planning and Management Pvt. Ltd. as a calm but sprawling ensconce where education moves beyond classrooms.
The Gujarat Knowledge Centre, a 7.5 acre campus, has all the distinguishing characteristics of a structure committed to determined academic pursuit. It is stolid in demeanour, and is averse enough to frills and wild splashes of colours to look almost forbidding.
Commissioned by a joint venture of the Gujarat Knowledge Consortium and the Gujarat Education Society in 2009 and finally realised in 2013, this campus is a part of a larger Knowledge Precinct of Ahmedabad plan, and was designed by veteran architects HCP Design, Planning and Management Pvt. Ltd.
“The spatial organisation of this low-rise campus is determined by the existing trees and the vision to create an environment conducive to learning,” states the team.
“A banyan tree is a symbol of knowledge; and so it seemed only natural to keep the huge banyan tree at the entrance of the building intact.”
The total built-up area of 8500 sq. mt. is composed of different buildings and segments that are autonomous but also part of a grouping around a quadrangle that unites them into forming one wholesome academic sprawl.
This campus is peppered with pre-existing trees and stretches of manicured lawns. There is an almost old-world romance towards simplicity at play here. The walls are dominated by exposed brick and concrete swathes, which is an aesthetically brilliant move because it makes all the natural greenery pop and sets up a clean, angular overall look. But it also lends the campus a no-nonsense, reliable aura that is further enhanced by the generous spaces in between.
These conversation-enabling open spaces have been carefully chalked out around, between and inside the buildings to become catalysts to student and faculty gatherings. In the cramped educational institution campus landscape that has fast become the norm in space-cramped metros, this set-up seems like a pleasant whiff from a glorious past.
It is difficult not to feel a sense of nostalgia for these ‘courtyards’, all eager to host interactions and recreational activities, and harking back to a time when learning wasn’t expected to be limited to classrooms and spiral-bound tomes of printed-out notes.
“The courtyard structure is part of Indian architecture and that idea was imbibed here too. All the classrooms and offices face a big courtyard. This in turn also helps the natural flow of light and air throughout the campus,” affirms the team.
The façade and hallway walls have been punched in at infrequent intervals to form large circular openings for natural light and air and shadows to flow in and form. The windows also sport wooden sunscreens. “Vehicular circulation in the campus is restricted to its periphery and area for future expansion has been earmarked to the southern part of the site,” adds the team.
The grandiosity of the campus comes into further focus when one realises that just 450 students and 50 faculty members are planning on residing here. No wonder the design team speaks of building a ‘micro-environment’ here.
“The idea of Knowledge Consortium of Gujarat was to motivate two projects of the state – ‘Skill Development’ to evolve a higher education system for knowledge values and skill practice where every student learns in without sacrificing his/her creativity; and ‘Faculty Upgradation’ to capacity-building of teachers and principals through training. The Consortium had to be designed to be a centre where development of knowledge would accelerate in the State,” adds the team.
The administration block here is home to an exhibition hall, a pantry, a conference room, the CEO as well as the Director’s cabins, a meeting room, and a reception area plus an entrance lobby. The largest courtyard stretch is flanked by the classroom block’s three major buildings – with the library building standing adjacent to them – and the pavilion.
The central classroom building houses the lecture room, with its semi-circular wooden seating arrangement a break from the conventional row-and-column array in the other two classroom buildings. The cafeteria is neighbour to the impressive auditorium complex which houses one august and one smaller hall, the former with a capacity of 280. Both feature red-upholstered chairs and heavy-set wooden walls with accents that look like perforations.
The Gujarat Knowledge Centre is fully representative of the state’s ambition of mixing global nuance and a recognisably Indian aesthetic to its educational institutions. It has been designed with a mature hand by HCP Design, Planning and Management Pvt. Ltd., by resisting all temptations of bringing in a clutter of props, instead relying on minimalism to be a stand-out. That’s a hard-won battle on a campus this sprawling.
Text By Shruti Nambiar
Photographs Dinesh Mehta