by Anmol AhujaMay 05, 2022
There certainly is something about educational spaces nestling inwards, circling in on themselves, that adds a layer of intimacy to the institutional architecture, bearing an immense callback value that is especially relevant in this part of the world. That is already apart from the playfulness and softness in form lent to the structure, but here, a somewhat metaphysical construct alludes to the most rudimentary form of education dispensing: in communes, under trees, or in the most basal refuges. The architecture then assumes proportions that are at once self-effacing and amicably rooted to the land like nothing else before it. Seeing the pictures of Jadgal Elementary school adorn the arid landscape of Seyedbar, Jadgal village, Diana Kellog’s Rajkumari Ratnavati Girls’ School in Rajasthan immediately comes to reminiscence, with the two annular structures seeming almost spiritual cousins. While both extraordinary structures subvert the traditional narrative using their definitive circumscribing walls, also bearing climatological ramifications, Jadgal’s circular edifice, designed by Iran-based DAAZ Office, bears even larger socio-political implications despite being built on a much smaller scale.
In an arrangement that could almost termed to be animating the setting as in a praxinoscope, the school building in Jadgal, Seyedbar, a remote village near the southern border of Iran, develops as a community project, a monument that places education as a tool of emancipation in a society “traditionally dominated by tyranny”. Made possible by the generous contributions of the villagers themselves who initiated a call for the project, and spearheaded by the village's youth along with the NGO Iran-e-Man who saw the necessity of a school for the small commune, the brief for the project developed to be a participatory one, incorporating a sustainable development approach. The school building, before long, came to be seen as a landmark, both physically and culturally, for the entire village community of Jadgal, accelerating the direct participation of the residents. Somewhere along the process of mobilisation and construction, the school itself had transformed into a metaphorical microcosm for the village.
Following a series of rigorous social and architectural studies in the village and the region, in an effort to solemnly identify and reflect the needs, shortcomings, potentials, and capacities of the region’s indigenous population, the school’s circular spatiality was laid out over 470 sq.m. of space, contained in a single storey. The program consists of four elementary classrooms, lined across the inner circumference of the school’s primary circular court, lending them the flexibility to combine and overlap with each other to create bigger classrooms. Furthermore, a library, a multi-function hall working as a conference room, workshop, and an exam hall, and main and secondary play yards that are designed to shapeshift into the village's community centre round out the school’s spatial program.
The frugality of the intervention is further driven home by the population of the students in relation to the teachers in the village, and the concentric layout reflects that. Each of the four classrooms are set edge-to-edge in alternation, leaving an option for the smaller classrooms to merge with the bigger ones, taking advantage of the training of one single teacher, necessary due to the limitation of teaching personnel. The ‘hinge’ at the connecting junction of two classrooms generates triangular yard spaces that seamlessly spill into the central court and into the outer circumferential ring, highlighted by the most striking visual element of the school: the outer wall. The central court, along with the multi-purpose room, are frequently used by villagers as screening rooms for films and sports matches, a play area for kids, a workshop for needlework for the women of the village, and even a tourist residence. The income from the latter two is spent on the school’s maintenance, rounding out the dimensions of a community-led and community-driven project.
The structure of the school achieves column-free construction and earthquake resistance through the use of insulating concrete formwork, along with EPS (polystyrene panels), galvanised iron profiles, and reinforced concrete. The final coat is a coagulation of cement and the local soil, Sigmel, that prevents rusting due to floods and excessive rain, as well as creating a visual, tactile harmony with the surrounding colours and textures. Furthermore, in case of cracking, the coating warrants easy repair and fixage by the residents of the village themselves.
All of this is ensconced in a porous shell of variable width that subverts the traditional narratives on walls as barriers or separators. Through playful perforations on its surface, inviting villagers and passers-by to peek and be a part of the space, the school solemnly blends into its arid landscape. The openings within the wall too, some raised from the ground to act like 'windows', while others meeting the ground to create 'doorways', are doctored to create unhindered avenues from inside the classroom to across the surrounding plains. The wall grows thinner near the back, but doubles up as a shell near the front, forming sit-outs as well as accommodating functions including a tuck shop, a school guard’s room, and a storeroom.
"In designing this school, we envisioned education as a dialectic, bilateral, participatory driven concept, and accordingly, the conventional school spaces that act as platforms for these ideas were transformed,” states the design team at DAAZ Office. “This transformation was performed in order to destroy hierarchy and strengthen a questioning culture, shining light on the most basic meaning of going to school, which is 'being together'. In conclusion, we aimed to create a school that is a nest for nurturing creativity, freedom and critical thinking".
Name: Jadgal Elementary School
Location: Seyed-Bar Village, Sistan & Baloochestan Province, Iran
Architects: DAAZ Office, Tehran
Lead Architect: Arash Aliabadi
Project Architects: Mahsa Hosseini, Nazanin Mojahed
Built Area: 480 sqm
Total area: 1100 sqm
Client: Iran-e-Man Organization
Social Facilitator: Mina Kamran
Structure Design: A. Giahi
Project Manager: Mehran Goodarzyar
Contractor: A. Noghrehkar
Mechanical & Electrical: A. Delavar