Shanmugam Associates designs a school in India using alternate layers of local bricks

The Rane Vidyalaya in a village of Tamil Nadu is inspired from the sixth century built Thiruvellarai temple of southern India where walls constitute layers of alternate materials.

by Zohra Khan Published on : May 15, 2020

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.

Front facade | Rane Vidyalaya | Shanmugam Associates | STIRworld
Front facade Image Credit: Courtesy of LINK Studio

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.

Indigenous techniques that inspired the project  | Rane Vidyalaya | Shanmugam Associates | STIRworld
Indigenous techniques that inspired the project Image Credit: Courtesy of Shanmugam Associates

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.

Central courtyard  | Rane Vidyalaya | Shanmugam Associates | STIRworld
Central courtyard Image Credit: Courtesy of LINK Studio

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."

Perforated ceiling on the roof grid filters natural light inside  | Central couryard | Rane Vidyalaya | Shanmugam Associates | STIRworld
Perforated ceiling on the roof grid filters natural light inside Image Credit: Courtesy of LINK Studio

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 view of the layered lattice (jali) wall  | Rane Vidyalaya | Shanmugam Associates | STIRworld
A view of the layered lattice (jali) wall Image Credit: Courtesy of LINK Studio

“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.

A bridge connecting two passages of the second floor | Rane Vidyalaya | Shanmugam Associates | STIRworld
A bridge connecting two passages of the second floorImage Credit: Courtesy of LINK 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.

Interiors of a kindergarten classroom | Rane Vidyalaya | Shanmugam Associates | STIRworld
Interiors of a kindergarten classroom Image Credit: LINK Studio

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.

Independent gardens connected to each kindergarten classroom | Rane Vidyalaya | Shanmugam Associates | STIRworld
Independent gardens connected to each kindergaten classroom Image Credit: LINK Studio

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.

  • Ground Floor Plan | Rane Vidyalaya | Shanmugam Associates | STIRworld
    Ground Floor PlanImage Credit: Courtesy of Shanmugam Associates
  • Section | Rane Vidyalaya | Shanmugam Associates | STIRworld
    SectionImage Credit:Courtesy of Shanmugam Associates
  • First Floor Plan | Rane Vidyalaya | Shanmugam Associates | STIRworld
    First Floor Plan Image Credit: Courtesy of Shanmugam Associates
  • Second Floor Plan | Rane Vidyalaya | Shanmugam Associates | STIRworld
    Second Floor Plan Image Credit: Courtesy of Shanmugam Associates
  • Site Plan | Rane Vidyalaya | Shanmugam Associates | STIRworld
    Site Plan Image Credit: Courtesy of Shanmugam Associates

Project Details

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

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About Author

Zohra Khan

Zohra Khan

A formal education in architecture combined with an avid interest in architecture journalism and design criticism led Khan to professionally venture into writing and research. She has worked in design communication for more than three years, generating content for mondo*arc india journal. When not writing, she kicks back by dabbling on social media for STIR.

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