We were faced with the daunting task of designing an IB school and college on a stamp sized plot located in one of South Mumbai's most exclusive residential areas.
Urban congestion has rendered Mumbai city devoid of sufficient Educational Institutions, and the few that are scattered around the city offer very little in terms of a holistic, well rounded educational experience. Even south Mumbai's most reputed schools are, more often than not, little more than an accretion of corridors and classrooms, with no access to open space or playgrounds.
Romantic notions of expansive playing fields and low slung building blocks are quickly replaced with the conundrum of rationalizing an essentially low rise typology with urban high-rise solutions.
Taking advantage of the sea front location of the site the building mass has been arranged as a 'C' shaped block with a large central void that runs the full height of the structure, punctured by a large multipurpose hall / Auditorium at the vertical junction of the school and college.
The vertical stacking of the primary school, secondary school and college has been determined by the need to segregate circulation paths and optimize the functioning of the independent entities. The primary school is placed at the ground level, the secondary school is stacked above it and the college occupies the upper floors.
The rigour and discipline of the classroom wings is offset by a more unconventional arrangement of program and circulation inhabiting the fragmented central voids.
A crystalline stalactite suspended from the floor of the multipurpose hall contains the Library, Art room and the Music room for the secondary school. The cafeteria for the secondary school is placed at an interstitial level below the eccentrically oriented and cantilevered multipurpose hall. The central void at the college level is punctured by a 2-level cafeteria and library spanning between the 2 classroom wings.
The rigid classroom grid at the secondary school level gives way to a more malleable arrangement at the college level to make provision for tiered lecture rooms that are geometrically expressed by excising redundant areas thereby resulting in a more unpredictable mix of congregation spaces at the upper level.
I personally believe that education is more about personal discovery, experience and interaction than it is about classrooms and this has been expressed by the fact that the art, music and library areas form the heart of the school. Breakout spaces in the schools and college differ both in their arrangement and scale, with the school having fewer but larger open area whilst the college has access to smaller, more intimate spaces at multiple levels. Landscaped terraces are rhythmically generated through the structure, in an attempt to provide a profusion of horizontal lung spaces within a constrained vertical arrangement.
In this age of frenetic evolution and epistemological nihilism we have, through our choices during the design process, tried to express our personal ideologies, in the hope of creating far more than just a physical container within which young minds grow.