by Pallavi MehraSep 27, 2021
Rane Vidyalaya by Chennai-based Shanmugam Associates depicts an interesting amalgamation of local materials such as red wire cut and grey fly ash bricks, baked earth tiles, and terracotta jali.
Located in the southern Indian village of Theerampalayam where there are no proper schools and people are involved in agriculture and unskilled labour work – the educational campus is designed with the intent to advocate a positive social impact on the local community.
Rane Foundation India Pvt Ltd. – the project’s client and an industrial conglomerate - laid the programme as a school for K12 and CSR initiative.
The architects drew inspiration from the walls of sixth century built Thiruvellarai temple near the city of Trichy in Tamil Nadu as well as walls of local homes in the neighbourhood that are almost 50 years old. The technique is characterised by layered cross-sections that are stacked for structure stability. It comprises heavy materials such as stone and rubble set at the base and finer solid brickwork, mud and slate at the top. In line with the concept, the design incorporated alternate layers of walls made of bricks sourced from local kilns and industrial cement waste.
Sweeping structural slabs cut through the building’s three storeys and project outwards as cantilevers. Upon entering through the ground floor, an enclosed central courtyard with perforated light wells greet the visitor. Inspired by temple mandapams where huge gatherings take place, the courtyard serve as a ‘multi-functional place for student congregation’.
“The courtyard," says the architectural studio, "is placed in such a way that it is visually connected at all levels."
The circular openings on the roof grid filter natural daylight into the interiors and present a light and shade experience for children who assemble below for either play, or prayer meets.
“We had initially envisioned to have alphabets, shapes and symbols as part of the roof perforation as it could have created more interest when forming shadows,” says Raja Krishnan, who is one of the principal architects of the project and also the partner of the architectural studio. However, it was not possible to execute this design detail given the time constraint in which the school’s construction had to be finished in a span of eight months.
“A façade system was worked out with no lintels in such a way that the structural framework of the building is wrapped by an external wall. As there was no plastering involved and curved edges were introduced, care was taken that the bricks were uniformly chamfered in all junctions,” adds Santosh Shanmugam, the other partner of the studio.
The interiors are conceived to allow maximum ventilation and daylight. Every kindergarten classroom sits adjacent to an independent garden that encourages a seamless indoor-outdoor transition. The construction technique and material palette facilitate a comfortable micro-climate. “All walls are stopped at lintel height and have openable windows above, to allow hot air to dissipate and increase cross ventilation. Terracotta jalli has been used as secondary shading devices,” informs Shanmugam Associates.
To combat the hot weather of the region, strategic openings on the facades, minor wind tunnels between classrooms and several green courtyards help create a pleasant learning environment.
With the use of local materials that minimised not only the cost of conventional plastering but also imparted a region language to the school, the project was executed at a stringent budget of $20 per sq ft.
Name of Project: Rane Vidyalaya
Architect: Shanmugam Associates Project location: Trichy, India Area: 50000 sq ft Year: 2018 Design Team: Shanmugam A, Raja Krishnan D, Santhosh Shanmugam, Srinivasan, Satish Kumar, Balasubramaniam, Mohammed Ismail, Rukmani Thangam, Praveen Kumar Structural Design: Ramkumar, Rays Consultants Engineering: Hitec Construction, Trichy PHE Consultants: D&D Consultants