The National Institute of Faith Leadership aims to build new leaders who are well versed in scriptures and also equipped to deal with the modern age. The stunning building designed by Studio Archohm successfully bridges both worlds.
Building a religious institution requires a fine balance between architecture and the principles of faith. The National Institute of Faith Leadership (NiFL) in Ghaziabad is one such remarkable building that successfully ticks all the boxes.
Established by the Shaikhul Hind Educational & Charitable Trust, the building was designed by the award-winning Noida-based firm, Studio Archohm with Principal Architect Sourabh Gupta leading the team.
The NiFL was envisaged as a tool to make Islam relevant to the next generation. NiFL aims to complement the traditional schools with an international institution that would be a gateway to the outside world, giving young Muslims a chance to be citizens of the world while learning about their faith at the same time.
The architecture of the complex and of the main building itself is very contemporary and minimalistic. “The spaces were designed for two levels. These cater to the need of both the introvert’s deep-thinking space and the extrovert’s collective discussions’ space. These areas also needed light, volume and drama and a sense of discomfort and disorientation too, a sense of awe,” explains Gupta.
The focal point of the façade is the magnificent arch which reaches above the walls and divides the building into two symmetrical halves. Gupta points out, “The breaking of the arch is synonymous with the freeing up of minds from myths and traditions. The iconic entrance is celebrating just that; an arch in concrete removes the ‘key stone’ to liberate the form, letting in light and space.”
There are no flourishes here. Devoid of extravagant gestures, the space is all about focusing on thought. Beyond the arch, a generous and beautifully-manicured courtyard with traditional geometry evokes a sense of vastness.
“This is a courtyard that allows light to come in to the building as it celebrates the introverted magnificence of an Islamic institution. It is positioned at mid-level to two floors of the institute so as to maximise access to nature, to light and green,” says Gupta.
A stone wall curves around the building, embracing a palm courtyard that was put in to restrict views of the reception space. The courtyard leads to a ramp which goes up to all the floors of the building making the space disabled-friendly.
The entrance incorporates the reception area, offices and the residence of the Vice-Chancellor. “All spaces take in light through various light wells that allow a clean closed external mass, an expression of Islamic values,” says Gupta.
The building itself is simple – classrooms, “language laboratories” and multi-functional spaces for the faculty. These open up to the courtyard with a verandah that doubles up as a meeting and sitting space.
Behind the brick building are two concrete structures that provide additional study space. The concrete contrasts elegantly with the traditional brick – one more example of how two worlds intersect.
A large circular window brings in subdued light throughout the day, making the area perfect for contemplative use. The double-height library has bare stone floors, concrete walls and tall stacks of books. Computers provide a multimedia library, bringing the outside world in.
On the other side, a multi-purpose hall doubles up as a prayer hall, a meeting space and a lecture auditorium. A circle and slit in the outer wall again bring in light.
The main building is covered with a concrete cantilevered roof that adds an unusual element of movement and surprise at the same time. The roof is punctuated with star triangles in white and yellow “a representation of geometric graphical Muslim motifs”. The motifs draw in sunlight and bring in drama as well as the shadows of the shapes are thrown all over the courtyard and building as the day goes by.
Gupta elucidates, “This metaphoric play of stars on the campus is intended to enchant and excite the mind on one hand but more importantly to distract it for the rigorous and regimented learning and to balance the institution with fun and freedom.”
The NiFL calls itself a movement, a “paradigm shift from today’s perception of Islam and its propagation.” The use of raw materials of brick, concrete and stone is a nod towards using ‘pure’ materials, an alignment to the purity of thought encouraged within those walls.
The play of light is meant to “bring in the excitement of enlightenment.” Everything comes together to create that fine balance, a bridge between the old world and new frontiers.
Text By Chryselle D’Silva Dias
Photographs Andre J Fanthome, Suboor and SG