Shanmugam Associates’ Northstar Nest in India is a kindergarten that interacts

The Northstar Nest in Gujarat embodies simplicity, its white, ribbed façades doubling up as brise soleil, enclosing classrooms and double height spaces of learning and play.

by Jincy IypePublished on : Feb 19, 2021

An eggshell white, ribbed skin adorns the kindergarten campus designed by Shanmugam Associates in Rajkot, Gujarat in western India. Facing the east-west, Northstar Nest stands on a 740 sqm rectangular site, realised across three levels and a stilt floor. According to the Chennai-based firm, rounded outlines, a child friendly colour palette, simple geometrical patterns on the pergolas across each floor and a modest building form was intentionally planned “to introduce colours, shapes and patterns to children using architecture as a learning medium".

Double height volumes and fins dominate the façade treatment of Northstar Nest | Northstar Nest Kindergarten by Shanmugam Associates | STIRworld
Double height volumes and fins dominate the façade treatment of Northstar Nest Image: Ishita Sitwala

Horizontal fins span the entire periphery of Northstar, performing as a brise soleil to reduce the heat gain on these walls and adding character to the building. “As this school is located in a fast-developing urban pocket with few buildings nearby, there was a chance of heat generation and hence the inclusion of these sun breakers,” informs Raja Krishnan and Santhosh Shanmugam, lead architects for the project.  

Horizontal fins act as sun breaker that reduce heat | Northstar Nest Kindergarten by Shanmugam Associates | STIRworld
Horizontal fins act as sun breaker that reduce heat Image: Ishita Sitwala
Open volumes and green spaces | Northstar Nest Kindergarten by Shanmugam Associates | STIRworld
Open volumes and green spaces Image: Ishita Sitwala

This ribbed exterior disguises the height of levels and plays with scale, blurring their distinction. To give the plain white façade a pinch of freshness and colour, the contoured grooves were adapted as planters near the windows, where it was easily reachable. Each floor has three fins between them – the first fin acts as a railing; the space between the second and third have punctures that host openings and the last one features the lintel, along with windows for ventilation.

  • Shadow play falls on the double height space below | Northstar Nest Kindergarten by Shanmugam Associates | STIRworld
    Shadow play falls on the double height space below Image: Ishita Sitwala
  • Shapes have been carved out on the terrace roof to form interesting shadows | Northstar Nest Kindergarten by Shanmugam Associates | STIRworld
    Shapes have been carved out on the terrace roof to form interesting shadows Image: Ishita Sitwala

The Northstar Nest does not feature any harsh edges so as to make the space seem friendlier, and bigger to children. A trompe l'oeil (visual illusion) has been created within the overall massing, in the central lobby of the playschool, which makes the stilt and floors above look vaster than they actually are. The roof right above this shaft has cut out shapes, alphabets and numbers that throw shadows below, engaging children and creating intrigue.

Architectural elements include fins, double height volumes and walls with splay | Northstar Nest Kindergarten by Shanmugam Associates | STIRworld
Architectural elements include fins, double height volumes and walls with splay Image: Ishita Sitwala

Double height space steps in intermittently to provide an interesting visual connectivity across the floors, while also acting as a breathing space for classrooms that house upcycled furniture. This also creates a chimney stack effect for built-up, hot air to escape, according to the design team. The open pockets below have been fitted with water points, planters and organic seating to foster spaces of interaction between children, as they come out of their classrooms for breaks.  

Floors seem vaster than they really are | Northstar Nest Kindergarten by Shanmugam Associates | STIRworld
Floors seem vaster than they really are Image: Ishita Sitwala
Double height breakout areas | Northstar Nest Kindergarten by Shanmugam Associates | STIRworld
Double height breakout areas Image: Ishita Sitwala

The lowest level hosts offices of the HOD, Principal and a staff room that lies to the right of the entrance lobby with a clear view of the main staircase, elevator shaft and toilets, while two classrooms lie on the far left. The open entrance extends directly onto the play area and garden on the property’s west side, for the toddlers to step out for informal, fun learning. The placement of the elevator, main staircase and toilets continue the same way across all three levels above. The first floor hosts four classrooms, while the second one has three; a multipurpose hall takes up space on the third floor and accompanies one classroom.

  • Interactive activity spaces | Northstar Nest Kindergarten by Shanmugam Associates | STIRworld
    Interactive activity spaces Image: Ishita Sitwala
  • Exposed ceiling with visible ducts and upcycled furniture foster curiosity | Northstar Nest Kindergarten by Shanmugam Associates | STIRworld
    Exposed ceiling with visible ducts and upcycled furniture foster curiosity Image: Ishita Sitwala

For heightened sensory perception, colourful handmade cement tiles are laid out in the classrooms and common areas of the kindergarten. “The classrooms ceilings are exposed with ducting visible to create curiosity among the young learners to understand the building’s mechanical systems. All door frames were avoided and instead granite jambs were used to pivot the doors,” shares Shanmugam A, lead architect.

Northstar Nest with its interactive layout and simple form carries enormous potential for the typology of kindergarten architecture in India, redefining how it can become the much needed catalyst in learning and play for little ones.

  • Design development | Northstar Nest Kindergarten by Shanmugam Associates | STIRworld
    Design development Image: Ishita Sitwala
  • Section | Northstar Nest Kindergarten by Shanmugam Associates | STIRworld
    Section Image: Ishita Sitwala

Project Details

Name: The Northstar Nest
Location: Rajkot, Gujarat
Client: Mohit Patel, Nirav Talaviya
Year of completion: 2019
Typology: Kindergarten
Gross Built Area: 1419.09 sqm
Site Area: 736.53 sqm
Architect: Shanmugam Associates
Lead Architects: Raja Krishnan, Santhosh Shanmugam, Shanmugam A
Design Team: Raja Krishnan, Santhosh Shanmugam, Praveen Kumar, Swetha, Sathish Kumar, Ismail Mohammed, Shravanti
Engineering: Ramkumar, Rays Consultants
Landscape: Sandip Patil, Tapan Modi, Earthscapes Consultancy Private Ltd

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